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Students: Intern at DRCNet and Help Stop the Drug War!

Want to help end the "war on drugs," while earning college credit too? Apply for a DRCNet internship for this fall semester (or spring), and you could come join the team and help us fight the fight!

DRCNet (also known as "Stop the Drug War") has a strong record of providing substantive work experience to our interns -- you won't spend the summer doing filing or running errands, you will play an integral role in one or more of our exciting programs. Options for work you can do with us include coalition outreach as part of the campaign to repeal the drug provision of the Higher Education Act, and to expand that effort to encompass other bad drug laws like the similar provisions in welfare and public housing law; blogosphere/web outreach; media research and outreach; web site work (research, writing, technical); possibly other areas. If you are chosen for an internship, we will strive to match your interests and abilities to whichever area is the best fit for you.

While our internships are unpaid, we will reimburse you for metro fare, and DRCNet is a fun and rewarding place to work. To apply, please send your resume to David Guard at dguard@drcnet.org, and feel free to contact us at (202) 293-8340. We hope to hear from you! Check out our web site at http://stopthedrugwar.org to learn more about our organization.

Report: Life Sentences: Collateral Sanctions Associated with Marijuana Offenses

The Center for Cognitive Liberty and Ethics has released an important new report, "Life Sentences: Collateral Sanctions Associated with Marijuana Offenses," detailing the range of extra penalties that people with marijuana convictions can continue to suffer even after their criminal punishment is completed, including state-by-state summaries. According to CCLE: "Our latest study examines the true impact of a marijuana conviction. A misdemeanor conviction for possession of marijuana can trigger automatic bars on educational aid, a bar on serving as a foster parent, denial of federal housing assistance, revocation or suspension of occupational licenses, suspension of one’s driver’s license, and much more."
Location: 
United States

Feature: Move to Undo Higher Education Act Drug Provision Passes Senate Committee

The Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) passed legislation Wednesday that among other things would remove the infamous "drug question" from the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), the form used by tens of millions of students each year to apply for college financial aid, leaving opponents of the drug conviction/financial aid ban optimistic of winning repeal this year.

http://stopthedrugwar.org/files/capitolsenateside.jpg
US Capitol
The Higher Education Access Act of 2007, budget reconciliation legislation that at the time of this publishing did not yet appear to have a bill number, includes language stating that "The Secretary shall not require a student to provide information regarding the student's possession or sale of a controlled substance on the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) or any other financial reporting form described in section 483(a)." While the drug provision itself would remain on the books, the mechanism currently used for enforcing it -- and the only obvious mechanism for enforcing it -- would be eliminated by order of Congress.

The provision, in effect since the 2000-2001 school year, bars students with drug convictions from receiving college financial aid for specified periods of time. Since then, more than 200,000 would-be students have been barred from receiving federal financial aid after answering "yes" to the drug question.

Until last year, the provision authored by ardent drug warrior Rep. Mark Souder (R-IN) applied to any drug conviction. But following a campaign by students and more than 330 health, civil rights, criminal justice, education, and religious organizations organized under the umbrella of the Coalition for Higher Education Act Reform (CHEAR), and extensive criticism of the law in the mainstream media, Souder and others moved to have it scaled back to apply only to offenses committed while the applicants were in school and receiving federal Title IV aid. Buoyed by the Democratic takeover of Congress in last November's elections, which put repeal supporters in charge of key Congressional committees, reformers continued to lobby for outright repeal of the provision this year.

http://stopthedrugwar.org/files/fafsa.jpg
FAFSA form
That's not quite what happened in the Senate HELP Committee Wednesday. Instead of repealing the provision outright, the committee voted to remove the drug question from the FAFSA. The measure passed easily as part of the education bill sponsored by the chairman and ranking member of HELP, powerful Sens. Edward Kennedy (D-MA) and Michael Enzi (R-WY).

"We're thrilled that the committee has acted to make sure that students with drug convictions will no longer be automatically stripped of their aid and will be able to stay in school and on the path to success," said Tom Angell, government relations director at Students for Sensible Drug Policy, an organization whose very existence was inspired by the HEA drug provision. "While it would be more appropriate to simply erase the penalty from the law books altogether, we support the committee's effort to make sure that students with drug convictions can get aid just like anyone else."

"CHEAR is ecstatic," said David Guard, a spokesman for coalition. "It's looking likely that our nine years of hard work are about to pay off in a big way." The HEA drug provision had always been Rep. Souder's baby and Souder's alone, according to Guard. "This has always basically been one moralizing man's crusade," he said. "While we've managed to put together a really broad-based coalition, Souder has mostly been out there alone on this one."

The Senate is one thing, but repealing or changing the law also requires action in the House of Representatives. According to SSDP's Angell, the prospects look very good there indeed.

"We fully expect the HEA reauthorization bill in the House will include full repeal," he said, citing the support of key committee members who support it led by House Education and Labor Committee chairman Rep. George Miller (D-CA), and including Reps. Bobby Scott (D-VA), Danny Davis (D-IL), Dennis Kucinich (D-OH), and Rob Andrews (D-NJ).

If repeal language survives the process in the House, as seems likely, it will still require action in a joint congressional conference committee. Such a committee will have to reconcile any differences between the House and Senate legislation, including the difference between repeal and mere removal of the question from the form. Also, repeal language on the House side is more likely to appear in the HEA reauthorization bill, not in budget reconciliation as happened in the Senate.

"It's a little confusing right now how all that is going to play out," said Angell. "Will there be one conference for the reauthorization bill and one for the budget? We don't know yet," he said. But in either case, Angell was fairly optimistic that outright repeal could be achieved. "We think the Senate HELP committee has expressed its intent to not see this penalty enforced anymore, so with full repeal language in the House, we'll be in a good position to really, finally achieve repeal."

But that's getting a little bit ahead of the game. While chances are good for HEA drug provision repeal this year, it isn't a done deal yet, and there is always Souder lurking in the wings. "There is still a lot of work to be done," said Angell. "We have to make sure there are no hostile amendments on the floor, and Souder is still on the committee. He's sure to offer an amendment, and we need to be arming our allies in Congress with the information they need to defeat that amendment."

Nevertheless, reformers consider the situation to be highly promising. If repeal happens this year, it will be the first time that a federal drug law has been repealed since 1970. Let's hope that's a harbinger of other good things yet to come.

Why do we let cops be our "drug experts"?

We see this at all levels, from the local DARE officer misinforming the kids to national law enforcement associations lobbying for more funding to top cops explaining why marijuana is not a medicine. All will tout the dangers of their target drug du jour, and we listen to them as if they knew what they were talking about. Why? Police presumably "know" about correct drug policy because they deal with messed up drug offenders. But police also deal with domestic violence incidents, and we don't assume that makes them experts on marriage. (For anyone who does assume that, check out their divorce rates.) Law enforcement is not a dispassionate, disintered bystander in the debate over drug policy. It sucks greedily on the taxpayer's teat for ever-increasing funding, and it manufactures drug threats to do so. I await breathlessly the arrival of the "new heroin" or the next "worse than crack" drug, and I'm sure the cops are going to tell me all about it and explain why they need more money to fight it. Even if we are generous and grant that people in law enforcement want to do the right thing and save people from themselves, they are not the right people to be teaching our kids about drugs. The latest exhibit comes from Biloxi, Mississippi, where the local newspaper had a story with this headline: Officers Give Biloxi Students the Truth About Illegal Drugs. Here are the three "truths" I could discern from reading the article:
The police investigator told the group that " Young people are actually taking this frog and licking it." The students couldn't believe their ears. Then the investigator explained how licking a certain kind of frog has the same effects as using LSD. He also said there were people willing to do it to get high. "Are you serious? A frog?" asked one boy. "That's nasty," a girl chimed in.
The cop is referring to the Sonoran Desert Toad, which indeed excretes an hallucinogenic substance when agitated. I am unaware of any contemporary reports of a psychedelic toad-licking trend, but thanks, officer, for making the kids aware of this bizarre drug-taking possibility. The second "truth" I discerned from the article is this one:
Richard Robinson said the most surprising thing he learned was "That crack kills."
It's not quite so simple. Yes, one can die from a cocaine overdose, typically from cardiac arrhythmia, but I'm unaware of any wave of crack-related heart attack deaths. (Am I wrong? Anyone?). I did find one five-year study of Brazilian crack users that looked at 124 chronic users. After five years, 40% reported not using within the last year, and 23 of the original cohort had died during the five-year interim, a mortality rate above average. But the study noted that the most common cause of death was homicide, not drug overdose. Crack kills? Sometimes, maybe. But far, far more often, not. Finally, the third "truth" I discerned from the article:
"We try to help them to determine what's real and what's not real. What's falsehood and what's a myth," said Sgt. Jackie hodes. "There's a myth that marijuana doesn't hurt you but it does. It definitely hurts you. It destroys your brain cells. So we just try to give them some truth so they can make more informed decision."
Truth, huh? Here's the skinny on the tired old "marijuana kills brain cells" meme, courtesty of the Drug Policy Alliance's marijuana myths pages:
Myth: Marijuana Kills Brain Cells. Used over time, marijuana permanently alters brain structure and function, causing memory loss, cognitive impairment, personality deterioration, and reduced productivity. Fact: None of the medical tests currently used to detect brain damage in humans have found harm from marijuana, even from long term high-dose use. An early study reported brain damage in rhesus monkeys after six months exposure to high concentrations of marijuana smoke. In a recent, more carefully conducted study, researchers found no evidence of brain abnormality in monkeys that were forced to inhale the equivalent of four to five marijuana cigarettes every day for a year. The claim that marijuana kills brain cells is based on a speculative report dating back a quarter of a century that has never been supported by any scientific study.
I ask again: Why do we let cops pose as "drug experts"?
Location: 
United States

Drug policy could be revamped by Fall Quarter

Location: 
OH
United States
Publication/Source: 
The Post (OH)
URL: 
http://thepost.baker.ohiou.edu/articles/2007/05/15/news/20070.html

Congressional Staff Briefing: Can Probation and Parole Supervision Reduce Recidivism?

The International Community Corrections Association (ICCA), The Sentencing Project, and the ACLU's Washington Legislative Office and National Prison Project, in collaboration with the Justice Roundtable Reentry Coalition invite you to a Congressional Staff Briefing: "Can Probation and Parole Supervision Reduce Recidivism?" hosted by Representative Bobby Scott, Chairman of the Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism and Homeland Security. Speakers include: Stefan LoBuglio -- Chief, Pre-Release and Reentry, Montgomery County Department of Correction and Rehabilition Pre-Release Center Cedric Hendricks, Esq. -- Associate Director, Office of Legislative, Intergovernmental and Public Affairs, Court Services and Offender Supervision Agency for the District of Columbia (CSOSA) Phil Fornaci -- Director, D.C. Prisoners' Project, Washington Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights and Urban Affairs Speakers will discuss how well-structured probation and parole supervision programs, coupled with pre-release planning, can address the challenges and barriers to reentry faced by previously incarcerated persons. Each year 650,000 people leave prison and return to communities, many in need of comprehensive mental health care, drug treatment, welfare benefits, public housing, employment and educational training. Programs that prepare people for their life after prison and link aftercare programs and supervision can ease the reentry process and lead to reduced rates of recidivism. Programs across the country can serve as models for federal policymakers. For more information, contact Ms. Abeo F. Anderson at aanderson@iccaweb.org.
Date: 
Wed, 05/16/2007 - 2:00pm - 3:30pm
Location: 
Room 2226
Washington, DC
United States

Contract ratification outlook unclear as some oppose drug testing

Location: 
Honolulu, HI
United States
Publication/Source: 
KPUA (HI)
URL: 
http://www.kpua.net/news.php?id=11364

Court Asked to Revive Challenge to Student Loan Restrictions

Location: 
Pierre, SD
United States
Publication/Source: 
Sioux City Journal
URL: 
http://www.siouxcityjournal.com/articles/2007/04/18/news/south_dakota/72ed44ec187db074862572c1000f281d.prt

GOP wants aid cut for students caught selling drugs

Location: 
WI
United States
Publication/Source: 
River Falls Journal (WI)
URL: 
http://www.riverfallsjournal.com/articles/index.cfm?id=23519&section=Wisconsin%20News&property_id=9

UMD: Senators poised to wage pot fight

Location: 
College Park, MD
United States
Publication/Source: 
The Diamondback (MD)
URL: 
http://media.www.diamondbackonline.com/media/storage/paper873/news/2007/03/16/News/Senators.Poised.To.Wage.Pot.Fight-2778059.shtml

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