Last week we reported on the story of President Trump’s Attorney General Jeff Sessions rescinding a marijuana memo from the Obama administration that established a policy of refraining from federal interference with state laws concerning marijuana use. Once the announcement hit the internet, people from all sides of the argument began chiming in with either praise for the “rule of law” stance of this administration, or adamant opposition of this new policy that essentially reignites the “war on weed” in America.
This announcement came only days after the state of California had officially enacted the legalization of recreational marijuana. Needless to say, the conversation has not yet been dismissed. One voice came from the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU).
American Civil Liberties Union VS Sessions
For some background, the American Civil Liberties Union is a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization with a stated mission:
“to defend and preserve the individual rights and liberties guaranteed to every person in this country by the Constitution and laws of the United States.”
The ACLU has over one million members and works through litigation and lobbying while providing legal assistance in cases when it considers civil liberties to be at risk.
In response to the news of Jeff Sessions rescinding the Obama-era policy for a hands-off approach to legal marijuana states, the deputy director of the American Civil Liberties Union, Jesselyn McCurdy stated:
“Criminalizing marijuana may be a priority for Attorney General Sessions—who has spent decades using bad science to push his own regressive agenda—but it is not a priority for the American people, 52 percent of whom support legalization. Rescinding this guidance is yet another example of how this administration’s ‘law and order’ philosophy is deeply out of touch with most Americans. With today’s decision, the Department of Justice is essentially telling at least six states and the District of Columbia that they are not entitled to govern as they see fit when it comes to drug policy. For politicians who purport to believe in ‘small government’ and states’ rights, this is a wildly incongruous move.”
Later on in the statement, McCurdy concludes,
“The War on Marijuana, like the War on Drugs, has failed by almost every measure—with the exception of successfully destroying communities of color. Marijuana criminalization negatively impacts public housing and student financial aid eligibility, employment opportunities, child custody decisions, and immigration status. Today’s decision furthers entrenches the country in racially biased, fiscally irresponsible, and morally wrong drug policy—and the ACLU will continue to fight it.”
And the ACLU is most definitely not alone in this mindset. Both Democrats and Republicans are openly criticizing this shift, with some like Senator Cory Gardner promising to oppose it at every opportunity.
Compassion Not Punishment
The backlash from this most recent decision from Jeff Sessions has come from all directions. Pretty much every publication and news outlet has covered this controversial move. As of now, there is no definitive answer as to how this policy change will impact those states where medical marijuana use is legal, or how it will impact the recreational marijuana industry.
But despite the fact that marijuana has become increasingly supported for medicinal use across the country, with many advocating for recreational use as well, the reality remains that drugs can still be abused, regardless of their legal status.
According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), marijuana use can lead to an individual developing problems known as marijuana use disorder. Data from recent studies research suggests:
- 30% of those who use marijuana may have some degree of marijuana use disorder
- Use of marijuana before age 18 makes someone 4-7 times more likely to develop marijuana use disorder
The NIDA also states that marijuana dependence occurs when the brain adapts to large amounts of the drug by reducing production of and sensitivity to its own endocannabinoid neurotransmitters. In 2015:
- About 4.0 million people in the United States met the diagnostic criteria for a marijuana use disorder
- Only 138,000 voluntarily sought treatment for their marijuana use
So while some may still experience difficulties due to their use of marijuana, the focus should still remain on support and assistance through compassionate care and treatment, not punishment. Regardless of whether you support the decision of the attorney general, or if you stand with the American Civil Liberties Union and other legalization advocates, you can support compassionate and comprehensive treatment for those who do struggle with substance use disorder.
Marijuana use disorder is a real condition for some people. If you or someone you love is struggling with a substance use disorder, such as chemical dependency or addiction, please call toll-free now to speak with a specialist today. We want to help!
CALL NOW 1-888-922-5398
Talking politics has always been a bit of a point of contention. It isn’t considered polite dinner conversation, and these days the political arena seems more polarized than ever with opposing opinions. However, many advocates on both sides of the isle agree that addressing the issue of drug abuse and addiction in America is a very important topic today. With so many differences of opinion regarding strategy it should be more important than ever to pay attention to the statistics. We must learn from our mistakes. So the fact that the U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions still supports the War on Drugs is a little disheartening. Now, Sessions is sticking to his idea of keeping it old school by endorsing the D.A.R.E. program.
The only problem is the D.A.R.E. program doesn’t have the successful record he seems to think it does.
Jeff Sessions Speaks at D.A.R.E. Conference
Tuesday, July 11 Attorney General Jeff Sessions attended a D.A.R.E. training conference in Texas. While at the conference Sessions gave a speech in which he praised the D.A.R.E. program’s work in the ’80s and ’90s, saying D.A.R.E. is:
“The best remembered anti-drug program today.”
“In recent years, people have not paid much attention to that message, but they are ready to hear it again.”
While D.A.R.E. may be the most ‘remembered’ anti-drug program, being practiced all over the country with one of the most recognizable names next to ‘Just Say No’, the real eye-brow raiser was when Jeff Sessions stated:
“We know it worked before and we can make it work again.”
However, the majority of the data suggests that D.A.R.E. didn’t really ‘work’ as well as Sessions thinks. Some would go as far as to say it didn’t really work at all, despite what Jeff Sessions claimed to know.
The D.A.R.E. program was created in 1983 in Los Angeles. In the years following the implication of the program, states and school districts made a great deal of investments into the program. Yet over time studies began showing that all this effort may have done more harm than good, much like the War on Drugs. According to the U.S. Bureau of Justice Assistance:
“To date, there have been more than 30 evaluations of the program that have documented the negligible long-term impacts on teen drug use.”
The agency also states that one intensive six year study even found that the program increased drug use among suburban teenagers, albeit a small amount.
According to a 1994 federal study, if students grew up and learned the dangers of drugs had been exaggerated or misinformed, they would distrust the lessons. Some insist this led to high rates of experimenting with drugs. Ironically enough, when D.A.R.E. was at its peak of activity in across the nation, between 1995 and 1996, teen drug rates were actually at their highest.
In fact, the American Psychological Association conducted a study including one thousand D.A.R.E. graduates over a ten-year period. After the decade, the study found no measurable effects were noted. The researchers compared levels of drug use, including:
- Marijuana and other illegal drugs
The data was collected before and after the D.A.R.E. program. Students were in sixth grade for the first period of the study, and were surveyed again when they were 20 years old. Although there were some measured effects shortly after the program on the attitudes of the students towards drug use, these effects did not appear to last.
D.A.R.E. to Do it Different
In defense of the D.A.R.E. program, the methods have changed since back in 2012 after the overwhelming empirical data influenced multiple levels of government to pull funding for the program. But it seems Jeff Sessions might want to push government funding back into the archaic attitudes that got the program nowhere.
Back in the ’80s and ’90s the program primarily involved police officers going to schools to educate kids about the dangers of gang violence and drug use. But many call the old techniques more ‘fear-mongering’ or ‘scare tactics’ than actual education. The majority of data shows these methods don’t seem to have the impact people thought they would.
Most drug policy experts believe that the attempts made to frighten kids away from drugs more often backfired. Even DARE’s own front-runners have acknowledged the program’s failures after years of denying the evidence.
The new strategy the D.A.R.E. program uses it evidence-based instead of fear-based. This reinvention includes the “Keepin It Real Program” that focuses on better decision making for kids. We should celebrate that D.A.R.E. is doing things a little different.
But the issue is most people are taking with these statements is that it appears Attorney General Jeff Sessions seems to think the old way was better. This jives pretty well with his ‘tough on crime’ agenda that aims to pursue harsher punishments, push for mandatory minimum sentencing and echoes negative stigma against people who use drugs. If Jeff Sessions makes a shift to supporting the new and improved D.A.R.E. then we can all breathe a little easier, but right now it isn’t looking that way.
Most people who are familiar with the War on Drugs, D.A.R.E. programs and other early attempts at addressing substance abuse in America will know that it definitely hasn’t been an easy road. We should focus on what we have learned about making treatment options more effective and showing more compassion for helping people suffering instead of punishing them. Getting help can save a life, and treatment can offer a far better future than prison. If you or someone you love is struggling, please call toll-free now.
CALL NOW 1-888-922-5398