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Legalizing Marijuana: Will the Education Department Change its Anti-Drug Policy?

By Michele McNeil — January 23, 2014 1 min read
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Next week is National Drug Facts Week, and this U.S. Department of Education blog post notes that nearly one-quarter of all 12th graders have reported using marijuana in the past month.

Here are some other facts on marijuana:

More teens view using marijuana as not very risky.

More states are legalizing and/or decriminalizing marijuana use. And more Americans are in favor of doing so.

Even President Obama has debated the merits of legalizing the drug, although his official position is that he’s opposed.

Given all of this, a loyal Politics K-12 reader (also known as Michael Petrilli of Fordham fame) posed a very good question: What affect is all of this national discussion having on the messaging or actual policy from the anti-drug offices within the U.S. Department of Education?

After all, especially in Colorado and Washington—where voters recently legalized marijuana for adults—how do you preach a strict Just Say No approach to a drug that voters decided, much like alcohol, was okay for adults?

An Education Department spokeswoman had no comment. (This is a politically dicey issue after all.)

But the department does play a key role in helping schools combat drug use, even as its anti-drug programs have been shuffled around and hit hard by congressional budget cuts. Per its official description, the department’s Office of Safe and Healthy Students helps finance drug and violence prevention programs and helps the Education Department develop policies on those issues. (Its various resources are definitely anti-marijuana.) And after years of budget cuts, this year the office is getting a funding boost of $28.5 million, bringing its total line-item up to $90 million.

The question of anti-drug messaging, at least for marijuana, is likely to get only more tricky. Several states, including Louisiana, New York, and Oklahoma, are already debating some sort of marijuana legalization during their 2014 legislative sessions.

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