“Abstinence-based programs face challenges because teens don’t want to be told what to do — they would prefer to make their own decisions,” said Ramo, who works with school-based prevention programs in California. “Further, since the trend is toward the belief that cannabis is less and less harmful, a ‘just say no’ approach is not realistic for this particular substance.”
With this research in mind, programs are focusing their efforts on getting students to delay cannabis consumption rather than avoid it altogether. One such program is Being Adept, a non-profit that teaches middle-schoolers in Northern California about drugs. Being Adept pushes the message “delay, delay, delay” and “just not now — maybe later” instead of “just say no,” Being Adept’s founder Jennifer S. Grellman told Marijuana.com.
“Kids by nature do not like to hear the word ‘never,’” she said. “They can comply better with ‘wait.’ In fact, one of the key reasons the DARE program failed is that kids rebelled from the authoritarian rules around use that the cops delivered.”
Since cannabis was legalized in California, Being Adept has seen more interest from schools, and it updates its curriculum each year to reflect the latest research, as well as marijuana’s changing legal status. Many drug education programs aren’t doing this because of the time and money investment involved in updating teaching materials, said Grellman.
Abigail Kesner, communications and marketing lead strategist for the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment’s Prevention Services Division, told Marijuana.com that the department has similarly focused its campaigns on the risks of marijuana use during youth since legalization. It’s now funding a study testing whether the state’s drug prevention curriculum is equally effective post-legalization, and has created a Retail Marijuana Education Resource Bank, along with the Colorado Department of Education, to provide educators with research-based education practices.