Pubdate: Mon, 22 Apr 2002
Source: Tribune Review (PA)
Copyright: 2002 Tribune-Review Publishing Co.
Author: Robert Sharpe


Your April 14 editorial on Yale University's end run around the Higher 
Education Act's denial of student loans to youth convicted of drug offenses 
made some valid points, but failed to acknowledge HEA's collateral damage.

Instead of empowering at-risk students with a college degree, HEA limits 
career opportunities and increases the likelihood that those affected will 
resort to crime. Speaking of crime, convicted rapists and murderers are 
still eligible for federal loans.

Most teen-agers outgrow their youthful indiscretions involving drugs. An 
arrest and criminal record, on the other hand, can be life-shattering. 
After admitting to smoking pot (but not inhaling), Bill Clinton opened 
himself up to "soft-on-drugs" criticism.

And thousands of Americans have paid the price in the form of shattered 
lives. More Americans went to prison or jail during the Clinton 
administration than during any past administration.

As an admitted former drinker and alleged illicit drug user, President 
George W. Bush is also politically vulnerable. While youthful indiscretions 
didn't stop Clinton or Bush from assuming leadership positions, an arrest 
surely would have. The short-term health effects of marijuana are 
inconsequential compared to the long-term effects of criminal records.

Like any drug, marijuana can be harmful if abused, but criminal records are 
hardly appropriate health interventions. Unlike alcohol, marijuana has 
never been shown to cause an overdose death, nor does it share the 
addictive properties of tobacco.

Unfortunately, marijuana represents the counterculture to misguided 
reactionaries intent on imposing their version of morality. This country 
cannot afford to continue subsidizing the prejudices of culture warriors.

Robert Sharpe Washington, D.C. The writer is a program officer for the Drug 
Policy Alliance.
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MAP posted-by: Keith Brilhart