Today's Press featured a pair of letters to the editor claiming that Drug Resistance Abuse Education actually does more harm than good, especially in its portrayal of marijuana as a bogeyman.
Therefore, the writers claimed, the city of Tracy would be in the right to discontinue funding D.A.R.E. to the tune of $60,000 a year.
That prompted a response from Tracy resident Ed Burnell, who supports D.A.R.E. by saying, in part:
"The DARE program, in my opinion, has the potential to save the City more than it costs. The cost to the community for investigation, prosecution and incarceration of just one person will usually exceed the cost of funding the program for a year. While it offers no guarantees, DARE needs only reach one student per year to be a good investment."
Which was the exact point of my most recent column.
But Burnell takes the argument a step farther:
The anti-DARE voices are the pro-legalization of marijuana voices. ... From where I sit, a no-vote for DARE funding is a smile and a wink and a thumbs-up to the legal pot crowd, and all that follows with them.
Not so fast, Ed. Just because you support D.A.R.E. — and giving kids the tools to deal with issues including drugs, alcohol and violence — doesn't mean you can't also support legalized pot in good conscience.
There's a not-insignificant list of arguments to be made in favor of legalized marijuana — its recreational use is already widespread, enforcing laws against it costs money and jail space we don't have, it's far less harmful than some legal drugs like alcohol, the state could make a tidy profit off pot taxes and many of the arguments against pot have been fueled by hyperbole, half-truths and racism.
Besides, even if California voters legalize pot in November — which I believe they should — there's still a need to warn kids about responsible use and to keep the stuff out of the hands of minors. I mean, just because alcohol is legal doesn't mean we don't educate kids that it can be both a source of responsible enjoyment, or a scourge that can rip apart lives and kill people.
You can be pro legal pot and pro D.A.R.E. without being a walking oxymoron. In fact, I think it makes perfect sense.