Mark Souder

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HEA: UC Berkeley Student Senate Approves Bill to Provide Scholarships for Students Denied Aid Because of Drug Convictions

The student senate at the University of California at Berkeley is not waiting for Congress to get around to repealing the Higher Education Act's drug provision. Under that provision, students who are convicted of drug offenses lose access to federal financial aid for specified periods of time. While the measure has been amended by its author, Rep. Mark Souder (R-IN), to only count offenses committed while a student was in school and receiving financial aid, hopes are high that the new Democratic Congress will repeal the measure in its entirety.

Wednesday night, the UC Berkeley student senate approved a measure that will grant $400 scholarships to students who cannot receive financial aid because of the drug provision. The ASUC Removing Impediments to Students' Education scholarship bill passed without objection and could come into effect this semester. To receive the scholarships, students must have a 2.5 Grade Point Average and commit to doing 20 hours of community service.

Berkeley's student government joins a number who have taken such "direct action" to reduce the consequences of the drug provision. In 2000, the year the drug provision first took effect, Hampshire College students voted in a referendum organized by one of the first Students for Sensible Drug Policy chapters to make up federal aid lost because of drug convictions out of the student activities fund. Yale University's administration adopted a similar policy in 2002 after being lobbied by student activists, as did the Western Washington University student government. Swarthmore College followed suit shortly thereafter. Also, since 2002 the John W. Perry Fund, sponsored by DRCNet Foundation (the publisher of this newsletter), has provided scholarships to students losing aid because of drug convictions nationally.

Students seeking Berkeley's scholarship must write a personal statement to be evaluated by a selection committee consisting of four student senators and the university's vice-president for student affairs. Scholarship recipients must pledge to donate back to the scholarship program when financially able. The bill also mandates that the student senate will write a letter to the university chancellor, California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, and President Bush, urging them to repeal the HEA drug provision.

The measure was introduced by student Sen. David Wasserman. According to the student newspaper The Daily Californian, Wasserman argued successfully that the HEA drug provision is counterproductive. "It is a poor way to fight the war on drugs. It's not right for the federal government to find the means to deprive students with a drug conviction of an education," Wasserman said.

Even the campus Republicans were on board. "Education is a means to success, it's a means to a future, it's a means to a goal in life. Denying that is truly not fair," said Berkeley College Republicans Sen. Victoria Mitchell.

"There was concern (among some senators) that the bill might encourage drug use," said Sen. Taylor Allbright. "But it encourages education. It encourages people who may have had difficulties to pick a better future through education."

UC Berkeley has long been in the vanguard of progressive change, and with this move, the student senate helps keep that reputation intact. "UC Berkeley is a beacon in the education community," Mitchell said. "Legislators pay attention to what happens. We're spearheading a movement."

Huge News: Dennis Kucinich To Chair Subcommittee Overseeing ONDCP

It ain't Ethan Nadelmann as Drug Czar, but I'll take it.

Rep. Dennis Kucinich has been named chairman of the Domestic Policy Subcommittee of the House Government Reform Committee, giving him jurisdiction over the Drug Czar's office. Oversight of ONDCP was previously conducted by the non-defunct Criminal Justice, Drug Policy, and Human Resources Subcommittee, chaired by rabid drug warrior Mark Souder.

In short, the responsibility of overseeing ONDCP has effectively been transferred from Congress' most reckless drug warrior to its most outspoken drug policy reformer.

Kucinich's agenda remains unknown at this point, but it's clear that he sought this particular appointment deliberately. From GovExec.com:

As the [National Security] panel's presumed chairman in the Democratic-led 110th Congress, he had a ready platform to advance his antiwar agenda.

But Kucinich said in a brief interview that he might wield more influence as chairman of the Domestic Policy Subcommittee, which will have jurisdiction over all domestic issues and the Office of National Drug Control Policy.


If Drug Czar John Walters is now wondering what's in store for him, he might begin by reading what Kucinich has to say about the war on drugs:

I have studied the issue for decades and recognize that our "War on Drugs" has failed. In fact, because our War on Drugs drives up the price, it encourages violence. Prohibition simply doesn't work. It only creates thousands and thousands of Al Capones. Prison should be for people who hurt other people, not themselves. We don't jail people for merely drinking. We jail people when they drink and drive or hurt another human.


The supporters of the drug war have only one solution to this debacle -- more money for law enforcement, more people, more power, more prisons -- with no end in sight. Of course, these happy drug warriors who justify their living hunting down drug users come on TV and promise us that they see light at the end of the tunnel. They promised us a drug-free America by 1995, and instead we see new and more exotic drugs constantly being added to the mix.


The shredding of our rights to privacy and property promoted by the Drug War is inconsistent with a free society. Criminalization of private or self-destructive behavior is not acceptable in a free nation.

The racism evident in the Drug War, and the clearly preferential treatment for offenders with connections, undermine our concept of a just society. Draconian prison sentences that dwarf those for violent crimes, like murder and rape, destroy respect for our laws.


It is time for an honest dialogue on this issue. Time to stop the documented lies, half-truths, and propaganda that got us into this mess in the first place. It is time to face the facts.


With due caution, I must say this is a great day for reform. That the man who spoke these words could even be considered for such a position is a tremendously positive sign. Dennis Kucinich is on our side. He showed up at an SSDP awards dinner for starters.

Stay tuned. This is going to be interesting to say the least.


Dennis Kucinich with SSDP staff, 2004
Location: 
United States

Former Narcs Say Drug War is Futile

Location: 
United States
Publication/Source: 
Fox News
URL: 
http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,243813,00.html

OP-ED: This Is Your Brain on Drugs, Dad

Location: 
San Francisco, CA
United States
Publication/Source: 
The New York Times
URL: 
http://www.nytimes.com/2007/01/03/opinion/03males.html?pagewanted=1&_r=1

Alert: CALL CONGRESS Today to Stop Dangerous Mycoherbicide Bill!

UPDATE ON VOTE RESULTS HERE Earlier this year, DRCNet reported on a push by the drug czar and drug warriors in Congress to pass a reckless bill to research the use of mycoherbicides -- toxic, fungal plant killers -- as a means of attacking illicit drug crops. Even government agencies are unenthusiastic about this one -- our article cited the Florida Dept. of Environmental Protection, the Department of Agriculture, the State Department, the CIA and even the DEA as agencies that have rejected the idea as dangerous for health and the environment as well as likely to meet with resistant strains of poppy and coca against which it would be ineffective. Unfortunately, some less prudent members of Congress -- Rep. Mark Souder (R-IN), Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT) and Sen. Joe Biden (D-DE) are attempting to pass the legislation by rushing it to the floors of the House of Representatives and the Senate as part of the Office of National Drug Control Policy reauthorization bill this week. Please call your US Representative and your two US Senators today to urge them to vote NO on this dangerous bill! You can reach them (or find out who they are) by calling the Congressional Switchboard at (202) 224-3121. You can also use the House and Senate web sites at http://www.house.gov and http://www.senate.gov to look them up. Also suggest that they vote NO on reauthorizing ONDCP itself -- a useless, agency whose functioning has been highly warped by its placing ideology over facts. The ONDCP bill does not have a number yet. So, when you speak to the staffers in the offices of your Representative and your two Senators, you should ask them to oppose the ONDCP reauthorization bill, especially the mycoherbicide provision, which is part of section 1111. Thank you for taking action. Please send us a note using our contact web form at http://stopthedrugwar.org/contact to let us know that you've taken action and what you learned about how your Rep. and Senators might vote.
Location: 
United States

Higher Education Act Reform Campaign

Since 1998 DRCNet has campaigned for repeal of the drug provision of the Higher Education Act (also known as the "Aid Elimination Penalty,") a 1998 law that delays or denies federal financial aid to people convicted of state or federal drug offenses -- since taking effect in the fall of 2000, nearly 200,000 students have been denied aid under this law. The major component of this effort has been our coordination of the Coalition for Higher Education Act Reform (CHEAR), a coalition including some of the nation's leading religious, criminal justice, drug treatment, education, civil rights and health organizations which seeks to repeal the drug provision. Ten members of Congress spoke at our May 2002 press conference, a record in drug policy reform.

The campaign scored a major victory in February 2006, when the drug provision was scaled back to apply only to people whose drug offenses were committed while they were in school and receiving federal aid.

Also in February, DRCNet issued our first major report, published under the auspices of CHEAR, "Falling Through the Cracks: Loss of State-Based Financial Aid Eligibility for Students Affected by the Federal Higher Education Act Drug Provision," finding that a majority of states deny state financial aid to applicants because of drug convictions, even though few of them have laws on the books directing them to do so. Del. Ana Sol Gutierrez of Maryland offered legislation in the state's 2006 session to address that situation, and efforts underway in states around the country to take on the issue at that level.

Speakers appearing in this photo include Rep. Bobby Rush (at the podium), with Rep. Tammy Baldwin, Rep. Elijah Cummings, Rep. Robert Andrews, drug provision victim Caton Volk, Jo'ie Taylor of the United States Student Association, Students for Sensible Drug Policy national director Shawn Heller and Legal Action Center representative Jennifer Collier.

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