Pubdate: Fri, 04 Jan 2002
Source: Charleston Daily Mail (WV)
Copyright: 2002 Charleston Daily Mail
Author: Bruce Mirken
Note: Mirken is assistant director of communications for the Marijuana 
Policy Project
Referenced: URL:


Your Jan. 1 editorial, "College: Those who sell drugs should not get 
federal aid," mischaracterizes the 1998 amendment to the Higher Education 
Act as a measure "denying student loans to drug dealers." The measure cuts 
off aid for any drug conviction, including simple possession-- a cut-off of 
one full year for the first offense, two years for the second offense and 
an indefinite cut-off for the third offense. So people can -- and do -- 
lose their ability to attend college for "smoking a little pot."

This law punishes people twice for the same crime -- since by definition 
those losing aid will already have been convicted and punished by the 
criminal justice system.

And it will disproportionately punish low-income people: The wealthy, after 
all, don't need financial aid. Also, it has been well documented that drug 
laws are disproportionately enforced against people of color.

According to the federal government's National Household Survey on Drug 
Abuse, African-Americans constitute 15 percent of drug users, yet Justice 
Department figures show that 36.8 percent of those arrested for drug 
offenses are African- American.

Under this preposterously unfair law, even young people who use medical 
marijuana to alleviate the pain of cancer or the side effects of 
chemotherapy could lose their ability to get an education. Repealing it, as 
Rep. Barney Frank seeks to do with his bill, is the right thing to do.

Bruce Mirken

Washington, D.C.
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