Tell Congress to Restore Financial Aid to Students with Drug Convictions

Since Students for Sensible Drug Policy was formed in 1998, we have worked to repeal the HEA Aid Elimination Penalty, the law that denies federal financial aid to students with drug convictions. Earlier this year SSDP filed a lawsuit in federal court challenging the constitutionality of the penalty in the hopes of having it erased from the lawbooks altogether. Unfortunately, late last week a federal judge granted the Bush administration’s motion to dismiss the lawsuit. While we are outraged that the judge delayed justice for tens of thousands of students affected by this clearly unconstitutional penalty, we're going to make sure that justice isn't permanently denied. That's why it is vital for you to tell Congress to repeal the penalty. Please ask your senators and representative to co-sponsor legislation to reinstate aid to tens of thousands of deserving students today by visiting Despite this unfortunate ruling, our fight is far from over. We are currently weighing our legal options with our dedicated lawyers at the ACLU Drug Law Reform Project, and will keep you posted if we decide to appeal the ruling. The judge in the case acknowledged the unfairness of the law, yet refused to deem it unconstitutional, writing: “It is true, as pointed out by the plaintiffs, that students convicted of possessing small amounts of marijuana may be prevented from receiving federal student financial aid while those students convicted of serious sexual or violent crimes would not suffer a similar fate. However, the mere fact that the classification results in some inequality does not, in and of itself, offend the Constitution.” Clearly, SSDP and the ACLU strongly disagree with the judge’s ruling and believe that this law is highly unconstitutional and devastating to tens of thousands of would-be students nationwide. But with this ruling, the court sent the message that the onus is on Congress to change this destructive and unfair law. Would you please take two minutes today to write your members of Congress and ask them to co-sponsor the Removing Impediments to Students’ Education (RISE) Act, a bill to fully repeal the penalty, by visiting In a few weeks, during the SSDP Conference, we will follow up your letters by sending hundreds of students to Congress’s doorsteps to directly lobby their senators and representatives to sign on as co-sponsors of the bill. The RISE Act currently has 71 co-sponsors, more than ever before, but you can help us convince even more members of Congress to sign onto the bill by contacting your senators and representative today at Earlier this year, we convinced Congress to scale back the law, helping thousands of students with prior drug convictions get back into school, and we will continue to pressure Congress until we get the law completely taken off the books. Despite this recent setback, SSDP will not stop fighting on behalf of students to repeal this terrible law. If you appreciate SSDP’s work to protect students nationwide, I hope you will consider supporting SSDP’s legislative efforts by making a financial contribution today at Thank you for your support of our efforts to repeal the HEA Aid Elimination Penalty. We will continue to keep you informed about our efforts to battle this law in courtrooms and in the halls of Congress. Sincerely, Kris Krane SSDP Executive Director P.S. The decision is already starting to get some press coverage. Check out the article from Inside Higher Ed at P.P.S. You can learn more about SSDP’s lawsuit by visiting
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