Why do American elementary schools equate wine and pot?

drug_educationsmLast week, our first-grade son brought a pamphlet home from public school equating wine and pot.

On one page, entitled “Drugs are trouble,” wine, beer, marijuana and cigarettes are graphically depicted in a cage making cat calls at children. Wine, marijuana; they’re both drugs! On the flip side, at least they differentiate between wine and illegal drugs–all while introducing the topics of crack and cocaine!

I can see it now: “Sonny, come help daddy pick out a nice wine for tonight’s dinner. Should we have a ’47 Cheval Blanc or a ’61 Lafite? Look, there’s your birth year wine over there that we can drink together when you turn 21. Oh, watch out–don’t step on daddy’s crystal crack pipe!”

In all seriousness, for six-year-olds? Come on. The whole discussion is not only heavy-handed but also grossly premature. (Checking on the web site of the company that produced the educational materials, I see topics such as “fighting germs” and “following directions” for first graders; drugs and alcohol are saved for fifth grade so someone at the school may have been overzealous.) We’ll just keep on having wine with dinner and our son is welcome to smell it whenever he wants.

For the parents out there, what have you seen about in your children’s schooling? How has wine consumption been framed, if at all, for your kids outside of the home? And what do you do if it clashes with your worldview?

Related: “Should kids be banned from wineries?
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69 Responses to “Why do American elementary schools equate wine and pot?”

  1. While making wine at Acacia many years ago my son was being educated at the local public elementary school. His school participated in DARE, which is the source of much of the alcohol is a drug propaganda foisted on children. He came home and announced at age seven that wine was a drug. I told him, “No, your teacher is wrong. Wine is what puts the roof over your head and the clothes on your back, and in the case of the local economy pays your school teacher as well.” The principal of the school got an earful on the subject the next time we interacted.

  2. Perhaps schools equate wine and pot because the toast levels are often the same.

  3. I have been appalled for years by this “Red Ribbon Week” at the elementary schools here in Texas. K-5 is taught about all manner of “drugs”, both illegal and legal (and by that I mean alcohol and prescription medication), and it is horrid. My children learned about drugs LONG before it was appropriate – what 5-year-old needs this exposure (I am sure there is a tiny percentage that do, of course)?? My kids know more words for pot now than I do, thanks to this. Alcohol and medications are lumped in as if they are akin to crack, meth, et cetera. I just tell them over and over that alcohol is NOT explicitly illegal, and therein lies the difference, period. I agree that these school districts should be taken to task. Maybe this is the way around sex education for these schools? We won’t teach them about responsible physiology, but if we keep them from getting drunk maybe they won’t get pregnant?? It is all too absurd.

    Of course, this is Texas, so what can I expect . . .

  4. I don’t remember the issue coming up in school, but around here there’s a strong teetotaler tradition in the Protestant churches. Wine is equated with illegal drugs and other vices, it’s explained that all of the mentions of wine in the Bible actually mean “grape juice”, and there’s a certain pride in going through your entire life without a single drop of alcohol passing your lips. I’ve been to many weddings where the reception featured Kool-Aid and sparkling apple juice for the toast.

    Such teaching wasn’t part of my own church or family, but I remember going to youth group events at other churches with friends and getting constantly lectured about the sins of alcohol. When I purchased my first legal bottle of wine at 21 I felt a little guilty and panicked, wondering if anyone would see me walking out of the store, as if I’d just purchased pornography or were leaving an illegal gambling den.

  5. drug (n) something and often an illegal substance that causes addiction, habituation, or a marked change in consciousness

    @LarryBrooks I understand the negative connotation behind the word “drug” but you are showing how ignorant you are by trying to take exception with the term. Rather than trying to make this the school’s problem why dont you try and sit down with your child and explain that with some and responsibility and self control some “drugs” are ok.

  6. @LarryBrooks … you ever watch the show weeds on showtime?? Im not going to start a weed vs alcohol debate but puts a very interesting spin on your “No, your teacher is wrong. Wine is what puts the roof over your head and the clothes on your back” argument.

    Just because you drink it out of a fancy glass doesnt NOT make it a drug.

  7. @ Larry Brooks –

    as a graduate of DARE many a moon ago, and a lover of wine – i don’t think you should be too hard on the program and your kid’s pronouncement of wine as a drug. although not entirely accurate – the program is designed to heighten awareness of children to drugs and drug abuse. wine is not a drug per se, but abuse of wine and other alcohol is something that we would want our kids to avoid growing up.

    that being said, the key for all of these parenting moments is interacting with our children to help provide commentary on what exactly they are picking up in these programs (which is what you did).

    i hope to feed my drug addiction tonight with a glass or two.

  8. Did you know that in California, it is never your fault if you get drunk at a bar? It’s the fault of the people who gave you what you wanted. They “over-served” you.

    If you drink too much wine, you get really drunk. If you smoke too much dope, you get really high. If you eat too many Twinkies, you get really fat. The problem is, if you can admit that you know what “too much” is, then you’re admitting that you’re responsible for your own behavior. And that means you can’t really sue anybody. And that is Un-American!

  9. When my kids were younger,the DARE program taught both of them to think their father was possibly an alcoholic, based on his consumption of one beer a couple of times a week. I didn’t drink at all then (the fact that I’m responding to this blog tells you how times have changed in that regard), but I was infuriated. There is a huge difference between substances that should never be ingested (crack)and substances that are fine if ingested in moderation(food and drink).

    Should children be encouraged to stay away from alcohol until an appropriate age? You bet. But I very much believe in helping children to understand that there are a number of desirable things in life that have to wait until you’re old enough to do them responsibly – starting with crossing the street alone and working up to the more difficult conversations – and those things should not be equated with the really bad stuff. It’s a lie and it leads to trouble when kids figure that out.

  10. I’ve noticed that the teachers who equate wine (or alcohol) with pot have smoked pot but don’t drink much wine. Often, they are the same ones who are overweight and show up to school drowsy from their Ambien with a cup of coffee or a Big Gulp of Coca-Cola and tell their elementary school athletes to be sure to drink Gatorade to stay hydrated when they play sports (even if they don’t perspire much). Some of them also smoke cigarettes (I know an elementary school PE teacher who smokes on campus). Maybe it would be better if they focused more on personal responsibility and taught it by example. Or, on second thought, most kids are probably smart enough to figure out who is slinging BS.

  11. can someone please delete Cousin Dayrl’s idiotic comments.

  12. My doctor says I should drink a glass or two of wine daily. So, when my kids tell me wine is a drug, I just show them the note from my doctor and tell them I have a prescription. Of course, being in California, I’m afraid that someday they’ll show me their medical marijuana card. On a serious note, I tell my kids not to believe a lot of what they hear or read, but that there is often a grain of truth hidden among all the large grains of salt.

  13. can joker filsby please explain what about my comments are idiotic.

  14. Haven’t had any experience with this yet, as my son is only 3 1/2 but…

    Wine has been a central part of human culture for centuries. We take wine at communion. Wine is seen as a part of the good life, and rightly so.

    I don’t mind my son learning about the dangers of alcohol – he’ll also be taught about them first hand in our house. But to lump wine in with pot, crack and meth is just silly.

    Wine has always been seen as a beverage of temperance and civilized society. And that’s something no silly cartoon handout can change.

  15. “wine is not a drug because people discovered it before other types of alcohol/marijuana”

    “wine is not a drug because it has normally been popular/associated with the upper class”


    No I am not going to turn into some troll on this forum/blog constantly ranting on the evil that is wine/alcohol (and/or the positive aspects of other substances). I stumbled upon your guys conversation and am simply trying to provide a different POV and shed a little light on how close minded some of the things being said really are.


    @Josh … regardless of the wine/pot debate you do realize that lumping pot in with crack/meth is the real insanity here dont you??

  16. @dayrl

    If that second quote is your attempt to summarize my position, I’m going to have to call shenanigans. That’s a straw man, plain and simple.

    You may want to make the argument that pot and Wine are both fairly innocuous drugs, and I would agree, but the simple fact is that one is legal and the other isn’t, except in certain circumstances (which I happen to support).

    Historically wine has been deemed not only socially acceptable, but lauded as a beverage of temperance, and if you want to boil my position down to a soundbyte, there you are. The same just can’t be said for cannabis. So to my mind the difference is clear.

  17. I should read the folder mail more often. I wonder what my kids think of my wine group!


  18. Here’s a thought – wine in a beer can. After drinking, you can smoke pot in the used can.

    Ok, that was totally wrong…

  19. As much of a wine lover as I am, it is in fact a drug, people. I’m not sure how many of your lives have been touched by addiction, but ignorant comments in regards to knowing what too much is, etc. will get us nowhere…addiction is a disease, and by definition, addicts DON’T RESPOND despite knowing what too much is. In that regard, wine is the same as pot, is the same as prescrip. drugs, is the same as nicotine, is the same as cocaine. Legal/illegal is irrelevant, as is social acceptance, in my not-so-humble opinion. Mind you I don’t think the scare tactics are appropriate either, but children do need to know that IF, in fact, a person has a tendency toward addiction, all drugs are created equal. My son sees me drink 2 glasses of wine a night and knows it does me no harm, but he also knows that a person that carries genes for addiction couldn’t do what I do.

  20. @Katie

    Just so I’m clear: All things that have the potential to cause addiction should be treated the same, lumped together, and their dangers should be taught in school?

    Sex addiction. Food. Running. Twitter. Facebook. World of Warcraft. Commenting on silly Dr. Vino posts (me)…:-p

    If you accept that at some point it makes sense to draw a line, then we have found common ground. Cheers.

  21. I had chills watching the indoctrination dog-and-pony show at my son’s D.A.R.E. “graduation” ceremony in 5th grade.

    It’s a well-intentioned but misguided and misinformed program.

  22. @Katie
    My son sees me eat two cheeseburgers at night and knows it does me no harm, but a person that carries the genes for addiction (and/or high cholesterol) couldn’t do what I do.

    Are you going to put cheeseburgers on this pamphlet?

    To say that legal/illegal is irrelevant is absurd. It is the bottom line for teaching my child in a public school. Alcohol is legal. Pot, meth, crack and other street drugs are not. PERIOD. You will not take it upon yourself to teach my child more than what is hammered out in black and white.

  23. @Josh, usually you and I see eye-to-eye, but I’m a little shorter than you are and forgot my heels today 🙂

    No, obviously sex addiction, internet addiction, etc. shouldn’t be taught about in grammar school…let’s stick to drugs, as in things we put in our bodies that are addictive. Although I think Tyler’s first-grade child’s class is a ludicrous place to start, I think it’s fine that they teach our kids that booze is a drug. Do I like the dumb-ass illustration above? Hell no. Like I said, scare tactics is all this country knows how to do, but it gets us nowhere. That being said, they should be taught about addiction…it’s just HOW it’s taught that needs to be changed.

  24. I’m not teaching anyone, Danielle, just my own kid. Nonetheless, alcohol is a drug, no matter how you slice it–it’s just a legal one. And pot not being legal is quickly becoming a matter of semantics. When/if it does, your logic would dictate they stop teaching about that too, then? Whatever, folks. I agree that scare tactics are not the right approach, and first grade is a more than crazy place to start, but don’t tell me alcohol isn’t a drug just because we can tax it.

  25. Btw, here’s a comparative perspective: Gabriella at Catavino took 50 elementary school kids to a winery when she was teaching in Catalunya.

    @Josh – silly Dr Vino posts?!?! Never!

  26. Of course alcohol is a drug. So is cherry-flavored children’s Tylenol and I didn’t notice that included in the flyer Tyler’s son got. I think the objection of so many of us is that many of the anti-drug abuse programs in schools – DARE for sure – have a purpose that goes far beyond the stated one.

  27. Josh, way to call nans- see you at the PT picnic.

    This is why drug education at home is very important.

  28. @Eric

    You lost me!

  29. This article might be of interest concerning the discussion here: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1223708/Alcohol-worse-Ecstasy-says-drugs-tsar.html. Really, I think it’s an irresponsible scale for him to propose because it assumes that all those drugs are controlled and unlaced. Not to mention, it opens itself up as a challenge; it’s like ranking the difficulty level of trails on a mountain. Except I don’t know if we want the bragging rights on this.

  30. Folks, wine = pot now. Just ask the newspaper in Colorado seeking a weed critic. Cheech and Chong were so before their time…

    @ Danielle – your cheeseburger analogy was awesome 🙂

  31. My son took part in the same DARE program as Larry Brooks boy. At the time my kid, along with all of his friends, loudly pronounced to me (and anyone who asked,) how they would never take drugs…how drugs were BAD. They bought the DARE program hook, line and sinker. I was positive, I told him I supported him on that decision.

    Now 14 years later in college his bedroom is stacked with cases of wine and spirits, he has a vaporizer for his (legal) medical marijuana and has a couple plants growing in his closet. All of his “DARE” friends smoke dope and drink… as do most of his friends in college.

    At best DARE is a useless exercise. At worst when they exaggerate and mislead kids on part of the issue, they invalidate their whole message. I worry the kids will think they are bulls$%#ing them about heroin and ecstasy as well. I would rather see them teach interested kids how to get high in a safe and healthy manner.

    Humans along with many other species enjoy intoxication. We need to recognize it is a natural part of being human. It is not a moral issue. The problem is WE NEED BETTER DRUGS! Why not accept drug use while at the same time create safer, healthier, and more enjoyable ways of getting high.

    I have tried to do my part with wine.

  32. It is absurd that something as valuable and sacred as wine is associated with drugs. For example Kosher Wine is of great importance to Kosher customs. It is made and treated in a sacred way to keep it pure and it should never be put in the same category as pot!

  33. If alcohol was invented today, do you not think it would be made illegal instantly? I know that is a bit of a bizzare thought, but think about it..and I love wine! BTW, the wine being invented today thing was said by the outgoing head of the advisory drugs council in the UK Prof David Nutt, who knows a thing or two about chemicals!

  34. I mean alcohol invented today, not wine*; typo!

  35. This sort of thing is annoying, but I can’t say I’m surprised. Alcohol is seen as an evil thing by many people, frequently within the religious communities. Other religious communities don’t see it that way. Either way, we have states here in the U.S. where you can’t buy alcohol on Sunday, where you can’t buy alcohol at all, etc.

    I need to stop here, otherwise I’m going off on a huge rant. 🙂

  36. Abraham: Sure. If wine were invented today, it would be illegal in the United States. What does that say about us?

  37. Being Catholic, my wife and I have lamented the quality of bad altar wine for years. As home winemakers and foodies, my stepdaughter was exposed to wine on the daily dinner table – yeah, we ate together as a family away from the TV – and at age 24, she is not yet a drinker but she has asked questions from time to time since she left home.
    Considering our Puritan past in this country, the stigma attached to wine as being another “drug” isn’t a surprise. What continues to amaze is the ignorance about addiction. But that is a separate debate entirely.

  38. @kosherwine … couldnt the same be said about the rastafari??

  39. @ Katie
    I did not say alcohol is not a drug. That distinction is immaterial. Caffeine is a drug, and both of my sons’ schools sell that in abundance. Myriad things are “drugs,” by your definition. What matters here is the distinction between a LEGAL “drug,” and an ILLEGAL “drug.” Is coffee on that pamphlet? Is Prozac? And yes, if pot becomes legal, you may take it off the pamphlet, Katie. Again, it is the public school’s place to convey black and white rules, not slippery-slope Turkey Lurkey hysteria – should they choose to get involved in this moral morass in the first place.

  40. Being strung out on caffeine will not cause you to run over an 8-year-old riding their bike in the street, but tossing back a few glasses of wine and forgetting to spit at a large tasting will, so please use logical comparisons. Yes, wine is a gift of nature, an art, blah blah, I get it…I’m a wine writer for christ’s sake. But that doesn’t mean it comes without dangers. My son knows the beauty of wine and has been taught to appreciate it, but he also knows that it can kill. I’m glad the world is black and white to you…that must make things easy on you, but there’s a whole lot of gray to many others. I’m not even sure why I’m bothering here.

  41. what if schools started teaching kids about responsibility, choice, not to mention math, science, geography and other things. Then we would have educated kids who could make intelligent choices.

    Instead we assume that they will never learn, and waste our time worrying about things that they will eventually experiment with and end up turning out fine in the end.

    What a waste of an education…

  42. I have no idea where to begin with my thoughts and feelings, as this conversation irks me to no end. As Dr Vino pointed out above, I’ve written 3 articles on Catavino highlighting the ludicrousy of the argument that a child drinking wine will lead to addiction. Allow me to state for the umpteenth time: fear mongering, generalizing and dramatizing of an issue, regardless of what it is, will only make it worse. Children drinking wine is no exception. But rather than fly off the handle, which is what I’d truly love to do right now, allow me to sit and compose my thoughts logically in a post 🙂

  43. These morons that want to control people’s behavior are the same type of idiots that have supported right-wing policies for the past 35 years. They want to deregulate banking, environmental protections, etc, and regulate person liberty and choice. Why? In most cases because their imaginary “GOD” or “Allah” or “Yahweh” has instructed their tiny minds to do so.

    Larry, you know it’s a complete waste of time and energy to even bother discussing public policy with the religious morons. The country just needs to go a little more broke to see major changes.

  44. […] Check out this nutty elementary school education project which equates wine with pot. […]

  45. Hugh Johnson wrote something very thought-provoking and worthwhile that applies to this discussion, IMHO. To paraphrase: once wine became known thousands of years ago, people discovered that it had two qualities. One, it was safe to drink because it did not kill you (because water-borne pathogens cannot survive its low pH; and, two, it produce a sense of euphoria. Also, one would be naive to not to think that the anti-alcohol factions have had a hand in the “wine-is-a-drug” propaganda. What tripe.

  46. […] Why do American elementary schools equate wine and pot? […]

  47. Katie: Hey, take it easy! The French don’t tell their children that wine is poison. They put some water in it and show that wine is something that accompanies food. Oddly enough, you don’t hear about French kids engaged in the same kinds of alcohol abuse that goes on in this country.

    Yes, if you drink enough alcohol you will get drunk, and you might do something horrible as a result. But that still doesn’t make wine a drug. Unless, of course, you approach it as one.

  48. The achilles heel for those who try to spread their prejudices to youngsters is that it backfires. It is based on the false belief that you can set a falsehood in the mind of a youngster and that it will remain implanted in their mind forever.

    This is so foolhardy to be laughable in the age of the Internet and the free flow of knowledge. All a youngster needs is access to a computer in order to discover what a line of bull they have been taught and then everything on which they have been carefully schooled comes into doubt. Thus, if wine is not an evil drug, maybe cocaine and heroin are not evil either.

  49. One of DARE’s weaknesses is to make all substances equally dangerous in children’s eyes, characterizing temperate consumption of alcohol as drug abuse. My son equated wine with pot as a first grader and still does now as a senior in high school. The message of temperate wine consumption with a meal is lost. In the end, DARE training does not impact the teenage party mentality, but rather gives teens confidence to experiment.

  50. This topic was one of the main drivers for the creation of Women for WineSense 20 years ago. WWS believes that, given access to balanced information, people will make reasonable personal choices about consuming wine. (The small, unfortunate part of the population susceptible to addictions needs help.) Based on this string, it sounds as if some haven’t made much progress in their thinking about moderation and personal responsibility. The good news is that, in spite of anti-alcohol campaigning that never seems to stop, many Americans are enjoying (moderately) wine at an increasing rate; why, America is up to slightly more than one bottle per month per capita, on average.

  51. My son caused quite the kerfuffle in his 6th grade science class (two years ago) when he chose to do his science project on fermentation. His topic was “How is Wine Made?”. Oh, the freak out! The teacher and the principal called me in when he submitted his outline, and demanded that I ensure that “absolutely NO alcohol is produced! We have a zero tolerance drug policy!” They were really not clear on the concept, and were horribly embarrassed when he pointed out that alcohol was forming “right now in that peach rotting on your desk”.

    The project was approved, and he got the chance to educate people a little bit, but it was a real struggle. Heavens forfend, a child might be taught a healthy attitude towards wine!

  52. As promised, here is my take on this debate: http://bit.ly/39uXgP

  53. […] say this because Dr Vino recently posted an article regarding a pamphlet his 6 year old son received from school equating pot and wine as dangerous […]

  54. I’m curious as to how they responded at your child’s school when you confronted them about this, Dr. Vino. Please do tell…

  55. […] First time here? Check out the "site highlights," send in a question, subscribe to the latest posts by RSS, daily email, or free monthly updates by email (right sidebar). Thanks for visiting! I recently posted about a pamphlet that our six-year-old son brought home from school equating wine and pot. […]

  56. Hi Dr. Vino,

    The wine rhyme did not translate very well. As I’ve been stduing Italian, I gave translating it a try:

    The Rhyme of Wine

    Born from Pergola grapes (Pergola is in the Province of Pesaro and Urbino in the Marche region of Italy),
    First it is sour, then mature.
    The farmer picks (the grapes and they are)
    crushed in the tub.
    The Must bubbles day and night,
    then finishes in the barrel (or cask).
    It rests in the barrel until the wine is pink (in color).
    After many weeks it (the wine) goes to fill large (10 liter) bottles or Barriques,
    but it doesn’t want to stay inside them.
    Now it is ready to finish for the family feast,
    then go into the bottle.
    It arrives poured in glasses,
    and for all is good taste.



  57. […] daily email, or free monthly updates by email (right sidebar). Thanks for visiting!In our recent discussion of wine education for kids, two readers thoughtfully provided translations of an Italian rhyming […]

  58. DARE – Drugs Are Really Exciting!

    Let them drink wine, and me too!

  59. “I’m curious as to how they responded at your child’s school when you confronted them about this, Dr. Vino. Please do tell…”


  60. […] American elementary schools aren’t the only ones who equate wine and pot. Yes, marijuana and wine are intoxicants. But there are big differences, even aside from one being […]



    Caffeine, nicotine, cocoa – even the opioid precursors in cheese: all drugs. Any chemical that produces a detectable change in your perception, brain or body chemistry is a drug.

    And, by the way, alcohol is very strong, highly addictive and physically harmful drug.

  62. It’s a fraudster who created this bad balloon/cartoon! Look this video made by children of Elementary School from South Italy about wine http://livefromtuscany.blogspot.com/2010/02/whys-of-wine-what-is-up-with-america.html

  63. […] This relates to our discussion last fall teaching about wine in elementary schools, in Italy and America. […]

  64. Hello,

    I am in Grade 8 currently and I
    have always had an interest in
    wine, vineyards, vinification,
    etc and I personally brew wine
    myself as a hobby and gift it to
    relatives, and at school through-out the
    grades we have been bombarded with
    these teachers propagating that all alcholic
    drinks are drugs and they say “The worst drug
    for you, but I guess Cannibis, Methenfedimine, Cocaine don’t acount for anything”

    Wine should be offilitated with an illegal
    substance, Wine is a traditional and in some places is a cultural drink. (Off topic a bit, my teacher that taught that retired that year so as a retirment gift being who I am, I got her a bottle of Cabernet Sauvignon…) HaHa.

  65. […] say this because Dr Vino recently posted an article regarding a pamphlet his 6 year old son received from school equating pot and wine as dangerous […]

  66. […] talked about children and wine education before. And recently about divers finding old wine under the sea. So I was surprised to stumble on […]

  67. […] discussion on that theme on the internet. It started with Dr Vino (Tyler Colman) who wrote about his six year old son coming home from school with a pamphlet bunching beer, wine, Marijuana, crack …. The post has (today) 54 […]

  68. […] hela började med att Dr Vino (Tyler Coleman) berättade om när hans sex år gamla son kom hem från skolan med informationsmaterial som delats ut till elevern…. I materialet buntade man ihop öl, vin, marijuana, crack mm och presenterade allt som farliga […]

  69. […] most responsible way to teach kids about wine? We’ve talke about an American approach that treats wine like a drug and an Italian approach that has kids singing songs and drawing pictures of Chianti […]


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