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U.S. Government Encourages Drug Offenders to Choose the Army Instead of College

We can now add to our long and growing list of drug war grievances that this terrible crusade has become a fully functional army recruitment tool. The U.S. Military has changed its rules to make it easier for drug offenders to enlist. Meanwhile, the aid elimination penalty of the Higher Education Act denies federal financial aid to students with drug convictions. That's right, folks. The federal government thinks drug users don't belong in college, but has no problem sending them to die in Iraq.

Our friends at Students for Sensible Drug Policy have a great new video explaining the absurdity of all this:

Of course, we support the U.S. Military's new hiring policy. Past drug use should never be a factor in assessing a person's qualifications. But making it harder for drug offenders to go to school, while making it easier for them to join the army, is shockingly barbaric and hypocritical.

One can only hope that this bizarre situation may expose the fraudulent logic by which drug offenders are denied college aid to begin with. After all, military service is widely considered an honorable profession; one which requires great courage, character, and intelligence. The very notion that past drug users can serve their country in combat destroys the myth that these Americans are somehow handicapped because they took drugs.

Now that the U.S. government has acknowledged this principle in one self-serving context, it bears a powerful moral obligation to examine and abolish other forms of discrimination against drug users. Freedom, however one may choose to define it, cannot be defended so long as we arbitrarily injure and obstruct our fellow citizens over such petty indiscretions.
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SSDP HEA Week of Action

Within the next few months, the US House of Representatives will decide whether or not to continue denying financial aid to students with drug convictions. This is our chance to take this awful law off the books once and for all. We're being counted on by nearly 200,000 students who have been affected by the law, and by countless more who will be affected if we don't repeal it. That's why it's essential that every SSDP chapter band together and participate in the HEA Week of Action on October 15-19. Prior to the Week of Action, SSDP's national staff will send postcards and phone scripts that you can use to generate written communication and phone calls to Congress. But if you're feeling creative, we'd love for you to do something exciting to generate media around the issue. Visit for further information.
Mon, 10/15/2007 - 10:00am - Fri, 10/19/2007 - 6:00pm
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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, and feel free to contact us at (202) 293-8340. We hope to hear from you! Check out our web site at 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."
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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.
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.
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.

Court Asked to Revive Challenge to Student Loan Restrictions

Pierre, SD
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Sioux City Journal

GOP wants aid cut for students caught selling drugs

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River Falls Journal (WI)

Bobby Scott and Panel on Higher Education Act drug provision

Visit and fast forward to 1:15:25 in the video to hear discussion of the HEA drug provision (also known as the "Aid Elimination Penalty"). According to SSDP's Tom Angell, Rep. Bobby Scott (D-VA) raised the issue with panelists testifying before the committee, and got a strong response to the effect of how we are shooting ourselves in the foot by taking college aid away from these people.
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Officials Debate Extending Aid

Article from the University of Maryland Diamondback, Officials Debate Extending Aid, on state legislation to block the Maryland Higher Education Commission (MHEC) from denying state college aid to applicants who are eligible under the state's standards but have lost their federal financial aid. This includes drug convictions. (2/21/07)
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The War on Drugs hits the 'Orange Bubble'

Article from The Daily Princetonian, The War on Drugs hits the 'Orange Bubble', on loss of college aid because of drug convictions. (2/14/07)
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