Pubdate: Mon, 07 Jan 2002
Source: Charleston Daily Mail (WV)
Copyright: 2002 Charleston Daily Mail
Authors: Anna Gottesman, Chris Hagglund, Kevin Hebert
Bookmark: (Higher Education Act)
Note: Main title by Newshawk


Denying Aid Puts Drug Users In Double Jeopardy

The author of the Daily Mail's Jan. 1 editorial, "College: Those who 
sell drugs should not get federal aid," has his facts all wrong. 
Sadly, the author expressed support for the Higher Education Act 
because of common myths and misconceptions that many citizens may 
have about this destructive, cruel law.

First of all, this law, which denies prospective college students 
convicted of any drug offense federal aid, does not discriminate 
between the one time pot-smoker who gets arrested, and the drug 
dealer caught selling cocaine, as the author assumed.

Any first drug conviction will take away federal student aid from a 
person trying to improve their life for one year. A second drug 
offense of any kind will deny the applicant federal aid for two 
years, and a third offense puts off aid indefinitely.

It is offensive to me that any person convicted of a drug offense 
would be denied federal aid, while murderers, rapists and other 
violent felons have no problem receiving federal student aid. There 
is no question on the Federal Student Aid form that asks if you have 
ever been convicted of a violent felony. It asks only if you have 
been convicted of a drug crime.

Secondly, the author stated that prospective students who answer yes 
to the question "have you ever been convicted of possessing or 
selling illegal drugs?" are given the opportunity to explain.

The truth is, the government does not read explanations, nor do they 
consider any. If you answer yes to that question, you are 
automatically denied aid for one year after that conviction, no 
matter how minor your drug offense was.

However, the government hasn't the time or the resources to do a 
background check on all applicants, therefore, if a prospective 
student answers no to that question, even though he or she has been 
convicted of a drug offense, the chances of him or her being denied 
federal student aid because of that conviction is slim to none. This 
encourages applicants to lie on the application.

It is true that there are not enough resources to give all those who 
need aid assistance.

However, this does not, and should not mean that those applicants who 
have experimented with, or been convicted of a drug crime should be 
singled out and denied assistance based solely on that fact. When a 
person is convicted of a crime, they pay the price and serve whatever 
sentence that is given to them.

In this country, we do not believe in double jeopardy which means we 
do not punish people twice for their crime. This bill would do just 
that, and more. It would put an unnecessary and unfair obstacle in 
the way of those trying to better their lives and contribute to their 

Those who support the repeal of the Higher Education Act, such as 
Rep. Barney Frank, D-Mass., who introduced a bill repealing the ban, 
should be praised for their moral and ethical stance. Those who 
oppose it should be recognized for their ignorance, shortsightedness 
and hypocrisy.

Anna Gottesman
Van Nuys, Calif.

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Drug Prohibition Is The Real Enemy

The law in question in your Jan. 1 editorial, "College: Those who 
sell drugs should not get federal aid," does not only discriminate 
against the sellers of prohibited substances, but also the users.

Why should drug users or sellers be specifically targeted by this 
unconstitutional law?

Well, the short answer is that the federal government has decided 
that doing drugs is the worst crime you can commit.

That's right, getting high in the comfort of your own home or dorm is 
worse than killing your neighbors and their children according to the 
federal government's loan denial policy.

You see, you won't be denied federal aid if you are convicted of 
murder, rape, or even petty theft. But if you just happen to be 
convicted of smoking a joint, then you may as well kiss your future 

This of course, is all in the name of prohibition. Drug dealers 
aren't the enemy, prohibition is. Almost all of the damage done by 
drugs is as a direct result of drug prohibition.

But we must continue prohibition for the sake of the children -- to 
ensure that their student loans are denied.

Chris Hagglund
Toronto, Canada

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Editorial Reflected Anti-Drug Absurdity

The Daily Mail's Jan. 1 editorial, "College: Those who sell drugs 
should not get federal aid," reflects the all-too familiar absurdity 
of our federal drug laws.

The article goes to great lengths trying to make The Drug-Free 
Student Aid Provision, which was amended to the Higher Education Act 
of 1998, seem like the perfect way to stick it to "drug dealers."

The Mail conveniently ignored the fact that the vast majority of 
people who lose student aid from this law are guilty solely of 
marijuana possession. Rapists, murderers, even terrorists are not 
subject to this provision.

End the war on drug users. Stop wasting our hard-earned tax dollars 
on this abject failure. Put DEA officers on anti-terrorism detail.

But most of all, stop demonizing drug users. Everyone uses some kind 
of drug. Putting people in jail because we don't like the way they 
get intoxicated is a foolish waste of limited law enforcement 
resources, especially in this new age of terrorism.

Kevin Hebert
Chicopee, Mass.
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