Youthful Indiscretion Follows Into Adulthood 

Youthful Indiscretion Follows Into Adulthood 
Posted by FoM on November 14, 2000 at 09:55:30 PT
By Bill Maxwell
Source: St. Petersburg Times
At the outset of the 2000 presidential campaign, Vice President Al Gore told the nation that he had smoked marijuana as a college student. After being exposed by the press, Texas Gov. George W. Bush reluctantly acknowledged that he had been arrested for driving while drunk. In light of these illegal acts (driving while drunk is potentially lethal to innocent people) by these wealthy, powerful men -- one of whom will be the next president of the United States -- I sympathize with the former migrant farm worker who telephoned about her son who has been ruled ineligible for federal aid to attend Florida Atlantic University in Boca Raton. 
The 18-year-old became ineligible because he got himself busted for sharing a joint with friends at a party in Belle Glade. He was convicted of misdemeanor possession of marijuana and, as a result, officially lost a year's eligibility for federal aid under a provision in the 1998 Higher Education Act that took effect for the 2000-01 school term. This was his first run-in with the law. He received probation and paid a fine. The loss would not be a problem if the family -- mother and three teenage boys -- had money. The mother's job as a convenience store cashier is the family's sole income. And she struggles to attend community college at night to improve her chances of becoming a store manager. Before you paragons of ethical behavior start sermonizing, let me say that I do not condone breaking the law. Nor I do embrace people who make stupid mistakes. I do, however, believe in fairness and common sense when "youthful indiscretions" are involved, as Texas Gov. Bush calls them (Bush was 30, by the way, when he was arrested). That said, I believe that Congress needs to revisit this onerous legislation. Under provisions of the bill, drafted by conservative Republican Rep. Mark E. Souder of Indiana, eligibility may be cut for 12 months for a first conviction of simple drug possession, two years for a second and indefinitely for a third conviction. Students can recoup eligibility if they complete a drug rehabilitation program or get their convictions set aside. Currently, according to the Education Department's Office of Student Financial Assistance Programs, nearly 7,000 of the 9-million students who sought federal aid this school term are ineligible for part or all of financial support because of recent drug-related convictions in state or federal court. For some people, that figure is high, but many conservatives regard it as low. "Justice Department figures tell us that roughly 1 percent of the U.S. population have a drug conviction, so it would follow roughly that 1 percent of the people who apply for aid would have a drug conviction to report," Karen Freeman, a spokeswoman for the Student Financial Assistance Programs, told the Chronicle of Higher Education. The Chronicle reports that about 10-million students apply for federal aid each year, and by Oct. 15, the department had handled nearly 9-million for this year. Again, I believe that the punishment is far too harsh for a misdemeanor, given the slap on the wrist that many segments of the adult population receive for the same offense. The student in Belle Glade failed to get his conviction set aside. His last recourse for regaining eligibility for next year is to complete a drug rehabilitation program in West Palm Beach. Sounds simple. But it is not. "I have to pay hundreds of dollars to do rehab," he said. "I can't afford the fee, so what am I supposed to do now? I paid my fine. I'm not a drug addict. I did a joint a couple of times with my friends. That's all. These people act like we committed some big deal crime and that we're shooting up heroin or something. I'll bet some of them smoked pot and did cocaine in college." Unable to afford the rehabilitation program, the would-be student is trying to get an uncle to co-sign for a bank loan. Instead of attending the university, he will attend the local community college if he gets the loan. The legislation has a Catch-22, David Borden, executive director of Drug Reform Coordination Network, said in the Chronicle: Currently, the only students losing aid are those who tell the entire truth about their convictions on the Free Application for Student Aid distributed by the education department. The form asks if students have been convicted of a drug-related offense. Borden says the overwhelming majority leave the question blank. According to the Chronicle, about 275,000 students this year did not answer the question even after the education department pressed them to do so. Most received aid. Initially, more than 790,000 ignored the question. Officials have changed the question on the new application with the warning: "Do not leave this question blank." They expect an increase in truthfulness. Lying will make students ineligible for aid. Many groups, such as the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws and the Drug Reform Coordination Network, reject the drug measure and counsel students on how to answer, according to the Chronicle. "Most of these students lament that they are being singled out in a feckless war on some drugs," Allen St. Pierre, executive director of the NORML Foundation, told the Chronicle. "These same students could binge-drink to death or smoke themselves blue in the face with tobacco, and yet they would not be denied a student loan for engaging in that kind of activity." I agree. The nation's so-called war on drugs is selective to the point of being ludicrously ineffective. It should not be a stumbling block to higher education. After all, these young people, like Gore and Bush, will grow up one day. Source: St. Petersburg Times (FL)Author: Bill MaxwellPublished November 12, 2000 Copyright: 2000 St. Petersburg TimesContact: letters sptimes.comWebsite: Articles & Web Sites:NORML Reform Coordination Network Other Lawbreaker,000 U.S. Students Forfeit All or Part of Aid Loans for Student Drug Offenders New Financial Aid Policy an Injustice Why the Story Matters
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Comment #2 posted by ras james RSIFWH on November 14, 2000 at 13:07:44 PT
I-man feels the migrant farmer's son has been unfairly treated by those who persecute the cannabis users. however, ras james, is more concerned about the congressmen who have passed these unjust laws. MAHADEVI, the great hindu goddess, has stated clearly, "The ones who scandalize the marijuana users will burn in hell until the sun does not shine." since RASTAFARI is about REDEMPTION and not "burning in hell"; the rasta must be concerned about those who are foolishly living in hell on earth by scandalizing the smokers of herb. LOOK INTO THEIR FACES...YOU CAN SEE THEY'RE LIVING IN HELL...redemption is for the ALL. ACCEPT RASTAFARI AS THE SECOND COMING; AND CANNABIS SATIVA AS THE MAINFESTING "TREE OF LIFE"...REV 22:1&2...AND YOU SHALL SEE BEFORE YOU THE "CITY OF GOD". give all praise and thanks to JAH RASTAFARI..."It's much latter than you're thinking."
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Comment #1 posted by Ethan Russo, MD on November 14, 2000 at 11:17:45 PT:
Hypocrisy Laid Bare
This is a fine commentary, whose logic will resonate with most reasonable people. That does not describe Congressmen, who need to be reminded, confronted and humiliated regularly with their own hypocrisy. All they are achieving is some counter-productive propaganda, while shutting the door to youth seeking a better life. In the process, the would be collegians are further alienated. In the immortal words of Dan Quayle, "It is a terrible thing to lose one's mind."
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