Thursday, June 19, 2008

I D.A.R.E. You

I can recall back to being in 4th grade when I was first introduced to something that was brand new to me in so many ways. Somehow my parents had managed to basically never expose me to the knowledge that such a thing even existed up until this point. What is it that I'm speaking of you ask? Well the answer would be Drugs. Well I know that it seems odd in today's times that a 10 year old not know anything about drugs. But I can honestly say I don't ever recall knowing or hearing about them until this point in my life (However, alcohol I knew very well growing up with my Grandfather John). Well that was until my teacher 4th Grade Teacher Ms. Bernier (I had a crush on her. lol) announced that we would be having a D.A.R.E. assembly later that day. My young mind immediately began to wonder what is D.A.R.E.?

Well later that day an L.A.P.D. officer quickly explained what D.A.R.E. was to myself and an auditorium full of other 3rd, 4th and 5th graders. I don't recall what exactly what happen specifically next but I'm sure I ran home with all kinds of questions for my parents. Also, I remember later being selected as a finalist to read my speech I wrote about D.A.R.E. during the D.A.R.E. graduation program. Ironically, I can remember my father sitting up the night before helping me to write this speech. If you knew my father's history you would also appreciate the irony. Well I went on to deliver my speech and graduate from the D.A.R.E. program with my dad in the audience to congratulate me. I received my D.A.R.E. t-shirt, button, hat, bumper sticker, key chain and knowledge about drugs and gangs that I supposed helped to keep me somewhat on the straight path.

So good job ex LAPD Police Chief Darryl Gates on your D.A.R.E. Program, and good job President Reagan on your diligence on the "War on Drugs."

However, I decided to do just a little history on D.A.R.E. beyond what I learned from the officers in the 4th grade. Well in case you've been reading D.A.R.E. and either don't remember or are wondering what the acronym stands for it's Drug Abuse Resistance Education. Well according to Wikipedia D.A.R.E. was founded in 1983 and "Students who enter the program sign a pledge not to use drugs or join gangs and are taught by local law enforcement about the dangers of drug use in an interactive in-school curriculum which lasts ten weeks. DARE is popular and well-funded, at least in the United States. However, numerous scientific studies of the program report that D.A.R.E. does not actually decrease drug use among graduates. Some studies have even indicated that there is an increased rate of drug use among D.A.R.E. graduates. In 2001, the Surgeon General of the United States placed the D.A.R.E. program in the category of "Does Not Work".

Well when I read this I was truly in shock. So you mean to tell me that all those weeks of studying about drugs and drug awareness and prevention was all for nothing? You mean I stayed up late wrote that speech delivered it to an audience full of my peers for nothing? I walked around wearing a t-shirt and hat promoting D.A.R.E. all for nothing? Well how DARE you waste my precious time!! I could have been at recess or some other 4th grade activity instead of hour long assemblies. LOL. J/k. But of course it was not a total waste of time because I did believe in what I was learning at the time and again I am a successful product of the D.A.R.E. campaign and although many have taken the pledge and broken their word I'm sure there are many other success stories that came/come from D.A.R.E.

In fact, Wiki reports that "According to the D.A.R.E. website, 36 million children around the world — 26 million in the U.S. — are part of the program. The program is implemented in 80% of the nation's school districts, and 54 countries around the world. D.A.R.E. was one of the first national programs promoting zero tolerance. The D.A.R.E. program has received numerous accolades and awards for delivering the message to keep "kids off drugs" and remains widely popular and well funded, receiving over $1 billion per year in the United States alone."

Well while we're on the subject of the supposed war on drugs I was curious to know how far we've come in this fight. According to the trusty Wiki "This total was estimated by the federal U.S. government's cost report on drug control to be roughly $12 billion in 2005. Additionally, in a separate report, the U.S. government reports that the cost of incarcerating drug law offenders was $30.1 billion—$9.1 billion for police protection, $4.5 billion for legal adjudication, and $11.0 billion for state and federal corrections. In total, roughly $45.5 billion was spent in 2005 for these factors." Now I am sure that there are many tactics implemented by the DEA to stop drugs from entering the country and hitting the inner city streets. And I'm not here to knock the DEA by any means because I know their job is not an easy task.

Unfortunately, it's not working too well at least from what my eyes detect. I've been throughout the "hood" sections of Chicago and needless to say you won't drive too far before someone throws up the universal "I got weed sign." For those of you unfamiliar it's simply putting your fingers to your mouth as if imitating you're smoking. So just in case you ever find yourself lost and driving through the "hood" if you see someone doing this don't worry it's not a gang sign. They just want you to know that if you're looking to buy weed, marijuana, green or whatever clever nickname you want to call it they got it. Funny thing is that I work and live in the suburbs but I was recently walking home from work and I walked past a Caucasian young man and heard him yelling "Hey!" Not knowing who he was talking to I kept walking he then yelled louder and I looked back and noticed he was talking to me. So I stopped and asked "what's up?" The guy then proceeds to ask if I have or know where he can get weed from? I quickly answered no to both and proceeded to take my black ass home. Well the black ass part was I'm sure part of why he chose to assume I had weed or knew where he could get some. I could go deeper into this stereotyping but that's probably best fit for another blog all by itself. But just goes to show you that you don't have to be in the heart of the ghetto to be confronted with drugs and drug use.

So back to the war on drugs, that's where we were. Well there's one tactic that I've discussed with my brother and a few others that I don't believe the DEA has used in their efforts to keep drugs off the streets. What I continue to say is we need to find out who makes and supplies the "baggies." Yes those small bags that fit only a nickel or dimes worth of drugs in them is exactly what I'm referring to. I'm no drug expert so please don't take what I'm saying as evidence I deal or use drugs because I don't. But being young and black and having lived in the inner city and still knowing people that do you get exposed to some things. Therefore, I know that to make certain drugs there are certain products you can use such as a scale, baking soda, razor blades. Well those are common items that you can basically pick up at any grocery store. However, I've never seen the little "baggies" in aisle 3 of the grocery store along with the sandwich bags and foil. Or maybe it's just me they are pretty small so maybe I've just missed them, but I doubt it. I just have never seen them used for anything else ever, so if they had another practical use then I could understand them being produced but I just don't have one. Then some even dare to have the marijuana leaf symbol on the outside of the bag. Come on now you can't tell me there is another use for such a bag. I mean it's bad enough that drug users are getting swindled as is. Well so I've heard, my parents have occasionally mention how a nickel bag back in the day was a sandwich bag full of weed now they're reduced to this small ass "baggy." Talk about inflation LOL.

But basically my theory is wherever dealers are getting these baggies from can lead to someone that has a connection with a lot of dealers. Now will it work or not I don't know, but to me if you haven't at least tried it then hell it's worth a try. But perhaps they have and figured the baggies were irrelevant to stopping the war on drugs. Now yes I'm positive that if they eliminate the suppliers of the little "baggies" that the dealers will use something else to package their drugs in. Anything from sandwich bags, to foil, to paper, plastic wrap, to tissue, bubble gum wrappers, etc. By no means am I saying it will solve the war on drugs single handedly but I think it would maybe give them inside access to some of the low level people and perhaps give them a chance to move their way up the ladder.

Well all in all I feel that drugs will always be in our society no matter how many billions the Government spends on the war on drugs. So ultimately there is nothing D.A.R.E. or removing little baggies can or will do to stop drugs and drug usage. However, when my child is as of age I do hope that programs like D.A.R.E. still exist. Although I don't expect them to my job as a parent, but I think it's a great way to begin the prevention and awareness especially in school where I won't be. But as a parent I will do the best I can to keep him as far away from drugs as I can.


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