Ryan Alexander-Tanner

SO, I KNEW a guy who smoked a joint this one time, and it gave him an erection that lasted, like, 26 hours, and then his penis exploded, and then he died. I also knew this girl who ate a pot cookie, and it made her pregnant, and then she tried to eat a wheelbarrow full of puppies, and then she died.

Oh, hello! I didn't see you there. Sorry, I've been busy crafting utterly false stories about young people who used cannabis and then died. It's all the rage over on the D.A.R.E. website.

You remember D.A.R.E, right? The acronym for Drugs Are Really Expensive? Wait, I've just been told that it's really Drug Abuse Resistance Education. If you're of a certain age, you may recall regular visits by Officer Friendly to your school to share the trash that D.A.R.E. put forward as facts—for example, that cannabis is a gateway drug.

Last week, D.A.R.E. made news when they ran a piece on their website that was taken from a site that specializes in satirical news—meaning fake news. Without fact checking (or applying a modicum of common sense), the brain trust at D.A.R.E. published the story, which reported that nine people in Denver and 12 at Coachella had fatally overdosed on marijuana gummies.

You can check out a screenshot of the fake news story, which D.A.R.E. pulled after someone pointed out it was factually impossible, on the Washington Post's site. Here are a few choice excerpts:

"Marijuana candies, sold on the street as 'Uncle Tweety's Chewy Flipper' and 'Gummy Satans,' are taking the country by storm," the story's anonymous author wrote.

"It is sad that in a country as developed as America, such third-world drugs such as marijuana are allowed to exist. Children are being addicted to marijuana. I knew this day would come, when a liberal president allowed a state to legally sell Marijuana Flintstone Vitamins to children."

The Washington Post goes on to quote, "'Marijuana. It is one of the most dangerous drugs on Earth,' the uncredited author concludes ominously. 'For every one joint of marijuana, four teenagers become burdened with pregnancy.'"

D.A.R.E. was started in 1983 by the LAPD—always a bastion of good ideas—and grew to staggering heights throughout the '80s and '90s. The program is present in 75 percent of US school districts, and in 43 foreign countries. With that degree of exposure, surely it's been a raging success? First, don't call me Shirley, and second, no. In December 2013, Scientific American reported that not only was there no difference in drug use between those who participated in D.A.R.E. and those who did not, but in some instances, the program "may even heighten the use of some substances among teens."

No one wants children using controlled substances, including cannabis. There are approaches to accomplishing this goal that have been proven to work—D.A.R.E. is not one of them, and never has been.