The Drug War Goes To College

The Drug War Goes To College
Posted by FoM on April 26, 2001 at 10:11:11 PT
By Arianna Huffington
What kind of vindictive social agenda could lead to a law that denies financial aid to a student convicted of smoking a joint but not one convicted of rape, murder, arson or armed robbery? America's drug war insanity claimed fresh victims last week. The casualties were rightly front-page news -- a child and her mother murdered in the skies of Peru in the name of protecting our children from drugs. Receiving a lot less attention were the tens of thousands of young people wounded by the Bush administration's decision to strictly enforce a law that denies financial aid to college students convicted of possessing illegal drugs. 
The result of a 1998 amendment to the Higher Education Act, the student loan ban was only sporadically enforced by the Clinton administration. Last year, some 300,000 students who skipped over a question about drug convictions on their financial aid applications still received their loans, while 9,114 students who answered "yes" were denied aid. Under Bush's new standard, the lack of a response will be treated as equivalent to "yes." As a result, it is expected that about 60,000 students will lose their loans, Pell grants and work-study programs this year. Like so many of our misguided drug war policies, this one clearly discriminates against minorities and the poor. We already know how African-Americans are unfairly targeted by the criminal justice system -- making up only 13 percent of the country's drug users but 55 percent of those convicted of drug possession and 74 percent of those sent to jail on possession charges. Do we really want to transfer this racist bias from our courts to our colleges? And why make poor kids pay for the same crime twice, while children of privilege are allowed their "youthful indiscretions" without fear of losing the chance for a college education? Rep. Barney Frank, D-Mass., who in February introduced a bill to repeal the law, stresses its unjust nature. "These low-income students," he told me‚" are in effect being thrown out of school for doing what George W. Bush and Al Gore have done. Now, people might not be enamored with either Bush or Gore, but I don't think anybody would say that America was disserviced by them completing their college education." Frank's amendment has been endorsed by more than 80 student government associations. In fact, this latest drug war offensive has had a galvanizing effect on campuses across America. Students for Sensible Drug Policy, a leading campus organizer against the drug provision, has received more than 200 requests to establish new chapters in the past month alone. In addition, a number of schools are establishing scholarship funds for students denied aid under the new guidelines. Among them is Hampshire College in Massachusetts, where Gregory Prince Jr. became the first university president to come out against the law. "Why would you want to exclude people from the educational stream," asks Prince, "when trying to keep them in the stream is the most important thing to do?" Politicians from both parties who supported the punitive provision are having a hard time answering this question. The extent to which they are feeling the heat is evidenced by the verbal back flips now being performed by the law's sponsor, Rep. Mark Souder, R-Ind. He claims that the legislation was never intended to punish students with prior drug convictions as it currently does. But didn't he read his own handiwork? Nowhere in the bill does it state that it applies only to convictions incurred while receiving federal aid. In fact, the language couldn't be clearer: "A student who has been convicted of any offense ... involving the possession or sale of a controlled substance shall not be eligible to receive any grant, loan, or work assistance." Maybe Souder needs to go back to school for a refresher class in English composition. Or economics. He has argued that one of the primary purposes of his legislation is to "help those who abuse drugs receive treatment." But he fails to mention how this treatment is going to be paid for -- his bill doesn't giveth, it only taketh away. There are currently 3 million people who are not able to get treatment. And someone who is not able to pay for school is probably someone who is not able to pay for rehab either. So add Logic 101 to Souder's courseload. Here's his first take-home test: "Solve the following conundrum: What kind of twisted reasoning or vindictive social agenda could lead to a law that denies financial aid to a student convicted of smoking a joint but not one convicted of rape, murder, arson or armed robbery? Explain." And after you explain, repeal. About the Writer:Arianna Huffington is a nationally syndicated columnist and author of eight books. Her latest, "How to Overthrow the Government," was published in 2000 by Regan Books (HarperCollins). Source: (US Web)Author: Arianna HuffingtonPublished: April 26, 2001Copyright: 2001 Salon.comWebsite: salon salonmagazine.comRelated Articles & Web Site:Arianna Onlinehttp://www.ariannaonline.comUp in Smoke - Wall Street Journal To Once-Busted Students: Do As I Say CannabisNews Articles - Arianna Huffington
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Comment #5 posted by Steve on April 30, 2001 at 08:22:15 PT:
Student Aid
It's absurd to think that a convicted rapist may still receive financial aid, but I could not if I got caught with pot. Maybe George W. should take a look in the mirror before punishing pot smokers who aren't hurting anyone. Wasn't he involved with tons of drinking and coke snorting? Both of which are far more dangerous and destructive than cannabis. I bet he would think different if one of his daughters got caught smoking a doob rather than drinking underage.
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Comment #4 posted by kaptinemo on April 27, 2001 at 05:14:01 PT:
Never hand an idiot a gun
He might use it on you.That Souder would not realize the dangers of his legislation is not that surprizing to me; most pols never see the error of their ways until the neighbors come calling with pitchforks, shotguns, tar and feathers. They invariably forget (and in some cases of especially devious pols, bank upon) George Washington's famous warning:"Government is not reason. It is not eloquence. It is a force, like fire: a dangerous servant and a terrible master."I said it before: the vast majority of American parents have acquiesced to the diktaten of the DrugWar because they thought it would never adversely affect themselves or their children, only "those people" (translation: Blacks and Hispanics). So long as the police stopped and harrassed "those people" on the highway, so long as only "those people" had their cars and houses stolen by the government via forfeiture, or "those people" were locked up in prison longer than murderers were, it was just fine.But now, because Johnnie and Suzy got caught with a doobie, in the eyes of the law, they are "those people". And subject to the very same treatment. Which means no college. No good, well-paying job. No future.Things are indeed cyclical: what comes around does, indeed, go around. What you do unto others shall be done unto you...sometimes in the most surprising ways. As these parents so happy to put DARE stickers on their cars are finding out when their kids didn't "Just say No" and engaged in the very same 'youthful experimentation' with cannabis that they did in their younger days. But were oh-so-lucky to be let off with a just a reprimand instead of a life-ruining possession conviction.They cheerleaded for this God-awful DrugWar...and their kids are suffering the consequences.Mr. and Ms. DARE cheerleader parents, ain't it a b***h? But you were the ones who handed the idiot the gun...and he's shot your kid's future's right in the heart.
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Comment #3 posted by Revolutionary30.06 on April 27, 2001 at 02:27:46 PT
Bush is a retard
I guess the gov't propaganda is finally becoming true:-Smoking pot makes you dumber.Correction: Smoking pot and getting caught can know limit one's knowledge.
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Comment #2 posted by Shawn on April 26, 2001 at 21:56:27 PT:
I Mean Come On !!!
I have to ask,How long are the American people going to put up with this kinda stuff.Remember the old saying Enough is Enough Already.....
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Comment #1 posted by Sudaca on April 26, 2001 at 13:26:28 PT
Under the law that Bush made, he should be denied all federal aid since he has refused to answer questions on his own drugs use.Yes Mr. President and members of congress, the only way to help the poor is to deny access to education to them who were exposed to their reality and made a bad choice. If they made a good choice, and were admitted to college, they certainly don't deserve it. Hypocrites, and why the hell do the people of America expect any reasonable thoughts from their leaders who spew this crap and ram it down the throats of their represented?
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