DRCNet Needs You to Write the Senate 3/4/05

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The Higher Education Act (HEA) Drug Provision -- a misguided law written by arch-drug warrior Rep. Mark Souder (R-IN) -- has since taking effect in fall 2000 taken financial aid for college away from more than 160,500 would-be students because of drug convictions. Next week (March 9), Rep. Barney Frank will reintroduce legislation -- now titled the RISE Act, Removing Impediments to Students' Education -- to repeal the law, and the next day the Coalition for Higher Education Act Reform will hold a press conference at the Capitol to support it. Though the RISE Act last session garnered 70 cosponsors, a companion to it has yet to be introduced in the Senate.

Please click here to contact your two US Senators and ask them to sponsor a companion bill to repeal the drug provision. Our web site includes a sample letter that you can use but are also encouraged to edit, and it will send your letter to your two US Senators by e-mail or fax. Also please call your Senators directly -- you can use the Congressional Switchboard at (202) 224-3121 or get their numbers from the Senate web site -- and urge them to sponsor legislation in the Senate to repeal the HEA Drug Provision.

BACKGROUND: Added in 1998 as an amendment to the Higher Education Act (HEA), the "drug provision" (section 484(r), or 20 USC 1091(r)) excludes students with drug convictions from receiving federal financial aid to attend institutions of higher learning. The provision has had the effect of disqualifying a large number of deserving, low- to middle-income students from receiving federal aid to attend college for what are often relatively minor drug offenses, including misdemeanor possession of marijuana.

SOME TALKING POINTS: The HEA drug provision is troubling for numerous reasons:

  • It is economically discriminatory, only affects the children of low- and middle-income families who rely on student loans, federal work-study programs, Pell Grants, and other forms of aid to help finance their educations. These are the very students and families whom the HEA set out to assist by expanding their educational opportunities.
  • It is inappropriate to punish people twice for the same offense.
  • Judges already have the discretion to deny federal benefits to those convicted in their courts. Likewise, school administrators have the discretion to discipline and/or expel students who violate university policies. We should let those who are directly in touch with the individual cases make such judgment calls -- not have one blanket policy decided in Washington, DC, for everybody.
  • Studies have shown that those convicted of crimes are far less likely to be re-arrested after having received two years of postsecondary education and that students who leave school after their first year have a dramatically reduced return rate.
For more information on the HEA Drug Provision and how to become active in the campaign to repeal it, please see http://www.raiseyourvoice.com online. For further suggestions on talking points or strategy, please contact Chris Mulligan by e-mail at [email protected], or by phone at (202) 293-8340.

P.S. If you're in the DC area, please attend our fundraiser for the John W. Perry Fund, our scholarship program helping students who've lost financial aid because of the drug provision, the evening of Wednesday, March 9 -- click here for details!

P.P.S. If you live in Arizona, please click here to write your state legislators in support of a resolution now being considered to put the state on record calling on Congress to repeal the drug provision!

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Issue #377 -- 3/4/05

Drug War Chronicle, recent top items

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The Ignorance and the Damage Done | International Harm Reduction Battle Heating Up | National Drug Control Strategy Taking Lumps from All Sides | Under New South Dakota Anti-Meth Law, Drug Use Equals Child Abuse | DRCNet Needs You to Write the Senate | DRCNet/Perry Fund Event to Feature Rep. John Conyers and Kemba Smith, March 9 in Washington, DC | Coasters to Stop the Drug War | Events and Conferences Coming Up for Drug Reformers -- Come Out and Be a Part of It | Newsbrief: This Week's Corrupt Cops Stories | Newsbrief: Four Canadian Mounties Killed Raiding Marijuana Grow | Newsbrief: Legalize It, Says Business Week Columnist | Newsbrief: Washington State Drug Reform Coalition Launches Campaign | Newsbrief: Texas Racial Profiling Study Finds No Progress, Calls for Ban on Consent Searches | Newsbrief: Arkansas Bill That Would Have Cut Methamphetamine Sentences Defeated | Newsbrief: Utah Treatment Not Jail Bill Dying For Lack of Funding | Newsbrief: Colombia Guerrillas Demand Return of Commander Extradited to US | Newsbrief: British Opposition Promises Tough New Drug War if Elected | Newsbrief: As British Parties Embrace Student Drug Testing, Research Report Flashes Caution Light | Newsbrief: "The Marijuana-Logues" Tour Cancelled After Parole Officer Forces Tommy Chong to Quit | A Drug War Carol Now Available in Spanish and French | This Week in History | The Reformer's Calendar

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