The Big Spliff: The Kids That Dared D.A.R.E.

About a year after the pot bust of 1985, the Clarkdale Elementary School set up a precursor to the Drug Abuse Resistance Education (D.A.R.E.) program. Mr. Steele, the fifth-grade teacher, brought in a policeman, whom he introduced as Officer Friendly.

My son Max and his best friend Omar, politely listened and watched the videos and movies about how smoking pot led directly to heroin, meth, crack, and cocaine addictions. Alcohol was seldom mentioned. They tried to figure out how the information presented squared with all the adults they knew that only smoked pot and seemed pretty mellow. Although their parents were not involved in the bust, Max and Omar knew about it and accepted their parents’ position that few pot smokers were ever involved in violent crime.

After every educational program, Officer Friendly invited the kids to rat out their families or friends. “It’ll be a secret between us,” Officer Friendly said. Max and Omar had heard the stories about the snitch and the big bust in Jerome, they knew that a snitch was the worst kind of person.

At the end of the semester, the kids were asked to present skits about what they had learned. Max and Omar paired up and were the last to make a presentation.

They went into the hall to get into their costumes. When they walked back into the classroom, Omar had transformed himself into a cliché of the drug dealer—trench coat, big pockets, hat pulled over his forehead, sunglasses, and gold chains. Even though he was not yet twelve, he was almost six feet tall and his size made kids think he was formidable, and not to be messed with. However, Omar had a very tender heart and never got into fights.

Max had changed into a clean shirt, pressed trousers, the epitome of the kind of clean-cut kid you who would never associate with drugs. He was shorter than Omar by a foot and a half, fair-haired and fair-skinned. He had a beatific smile that made him look, well, maybe not quite angelic, but perhaps trustable; a kid every mom could be proud of. Max and Omar were best friends: Omar was the gentle giant and Max was the offbeat sidekick.

“Hey Max,” says Omar. “I just got some dynamite Panama Red. Want to smoke a joint?”

“Oh no, Omar, but thanks anyway,” Max said.

“How about some ‘Maui Zowie’ that my friend just brought back from Hawaii. You hardly ever see that around any more, Max. It’s awesome.”

“Sorry, Omar, I have to say no to Maui Zowie today.” Max smiled.

Officer Friendly beamed. It was just the way he had taught the kids to respond when someone offered to get them high.

“But Max, Max, here’s something I know you won’t turn down. I got hold of an old Thai stick, and man, is that some heavy-duty pot.”

All of a sudden, from under his shirt, Max whipped out an eight-inch long, cigar-thick spliff, rolled in newspaper, which he pretended to light. “Well, Omar, the thing is, I have some of my own.”

After no more than five shocked seconds, the room erupted in a roar as the kids rocked with laughter. The teacher could not be heard over the pandemonium for quite a few minutes and ordered Max and Omar to go to the principal’s office.

The principal was friendly with many Jerome parents and was known in some circles for his own hell-raising ways.

“Look,” he said to Max and Omar. “We know what goes on up there with you hippies, but you don’t have to parade it around. Try and mellow out.”

Max and Omar became heroes. For years, the kids told the story to one another. After all, Max and Omar had “dared” the powers that be. And, maybe more importantly, they got away with it.



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