Action Alert: HEA Campaign Entering New Stage -- Your Letters and Phone Calls Needed! 2/20/04

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As you may know, DRCNet, Students for Sensible Drug Policy, and a wide range of education, civil rights, religious, drug policy reform and other groups have long campaigned against a 1998 amendment to the Higher Education Act that delays or denies federal financial aid to anyone convicted of a drug offense, no matter how minor. More than 128,000 would-be students have been adversely affected by this provision. H.R. 685, a bill in the US House of Representatives to repeal the HEA drug provision, has the support of 66 Representatives, and six presidential candidates have spoken out for its repeal as well.

Our battle has recently entered a new stage. The Higher Education Act is itself in the midst of reauthorization, making this a particularly critical moment for working on this issue. Also, our coalition has mounted a major new effort to launch the repeal effort into the Senate, after previously focusing only on the House of Representatives. Finally, responding to growing support for repeal of the drug provision, its sponsor, notorious drug warrior Rep. Mark Souder (R-IN), has offered a proposal to scale the law back so that it only applies to people who were in school at the time they committed their offense. While he has brought up this reform previously, this time it is particularly likely to become law.

While the Souder reform will help some number of people and represents an important partial victory for the students and others working on this issue, only full repeal can adequately address the education, discrimination and other serious concerns that members of our coalition have about the HEA drug provision. For all these reasons, we are asking you to take a moment right now to mark this new stage of the campaign by contacting your US Representative and your two US Senators -- use our web site at to do so online -- and to follow up with a phone call to them tomorrow, Friday February 13, or as soon thereafter as you can.

IF YOU USE OUR WEB SITE AT TO CONTACT CONGRESS, WE WILL BE ABLE TO SEND YOU A CUSTOMIZED E-MAIL WITH THEIR NAMES AND DIRECT PHONE NUMBERS. YOU CAN ALSO REACH THEM VIA THE CONGRESSIONAL SWITCHBOARD AT (202) 224-3121. When you are done, please forward this alert to your family and friends or use the tell-a-friend form that we have made available on online.

Also, we and our campaign partners at Students for Sensible Drug Policy will be sending you a special bulletin next week outlining our strategy for advancing the full repeal cause, announcing a NATIONAL DAY OF ACTION this April, and letting you know what students and non-students alike can do to help. You can start getting ready by visiting for extensive information about the issue and resources for getting involved in the campaign, including our newly-updated student and non-student activist packets.

Some talking points for your phone calls:

  • The vast majority of Americans convicted of drug offenses are convicted of nonviolent, low-level possession.
  • The HEA drug provision represents a penalty levied only on the poor and the working class; wealthier students will not have the doors of college closed to them for want to financial aid.
  • The HEA drug provision has a disparate impact on different races. African Americans, for example, comprise 13% of the population and 13% of all drug users, but account for more than 55% of those convicted of drug possession charges.
  • Access to a college education is the surest route to the mainstream economy and a crime-free life.
Again, visit to write to Congress and get involved in the campaign!

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Issue #325, 2/20/04 Editorial: Long in the Making | ACLU, Drug Reform Groups Sue over Federal Ban on Public Transit Drug Reform Ads | Utah Asset Forfeiture Reform Law Under Attack | As Continental Harm Reduction Movement Hits Bump, Brazil House Passes Drug Possession Depenalization Bill | Oakland "Regulate and Tax" Marijuana Legalization Initiative Getting Underway -- Poll Says Public Support Strong | Action Alert: HEA Campaign Entering New Stage -- Your Letters and Phone Calls Needed! | Newsbrief: DEA Moving to Restrict Vicodin | Newsbrief: Canadian Government Reintroduces Marijuana Decriminalization Bill | Newsbrief: Methadone Maintenance Doctors Under Attack in Britain | Newsbrief: This Week's Corrupt Cops Story | Newsbrief: Drug War First -- Florida Town Offers Used Car Drug Inspections | This Week in History | Psilocybin Cancer Research Study Seeking Participants | Asian Harm Reduction Network Launches Online Resource Collection | Offer and Appeal: New Ink Stamps and Strobe Lights -- DRCNet Needs Your Support in 2004 | The Reformer's Calendar

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