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Blowing Smoke 

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Before I graduated from Bingham High School in 1972, I had smoked marijuana and taken “diet pills.” Back then it seemed like nearly everyone I knew had tried drugs—even some teachers. Years removed from what passed as a drug scene, many old friends have found success in such fields as law, engineering, ranching, medicine, education, geology and even journalism. Among them, a couple served LDS missions, one became an LDS bishop, and there are too many temple marriages to count.

So, it’s not like I ran with a hard crowd.

The early 1970s were really part of the ’60s—replete with everything that era embodied. Drugs were everywhere, even at Bingham High School—an unlikely place to find drugs if there ever was one. Our student body was primarily comprised of the sons and daughters of miners and farmers. Most of the farm kids were LDS, and the miners’ kids were anything but. While life at Bingham High could never be compared to life at a city school, elements of both cultures—LDS and non—experimented with drugs during their school years or soon after.

Clearly, showing us Reefer Madness—the drug-intervention program of the day—was a waste of time. Equally clear is the fact that drug usage as an inner-city or suburban problem is a grand myth. Despite that fact, most drug-intervention programs either originate in, or focus on, the problems inherent in city schools. The approach to drug intervention has been one-size-fits-all, and sweeping programs like DARE, LST, STAR and ATLAS have all had their moments of being the darling of politicians, educators and police.

Currently, DARE is on the shit list in some parts of the nation, and especially in Salt Lake City. Mayor Rocky Anderson has pulled city taxpayer funding for the program, and has mandated that a better substitute be found by this fall. DARE’s detractors say it isn’t as effective at cutting drug use as other programs, and point to studies showing just that.

I say, so what?

My kids are in the DARE programs taught in the Murray School District, and I couldn’t be more pleased—statistics, graphs and studies be damned. As far as I’m concerned, DARE is a good program and should not be mistaken for a cure-all. Trading the DARE for another program will only produce another battery of statistics, graphs and studies. Meanwhile, there remains one strong obstacle to any intervention program: Politicians and drug dealers make more money than cops and teachers.

As long as politicians are armed with statistics, and as long as drug dealers can sell to even good Mormon kids from Bingham High, we’re all blowing smoke. —John Saltas

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