Pubdate: Thu, 18 Oct 2007
Source: Sidelines, The (TN Edu)
Copyright: 2007 Middle Tennessee State University
Author: Matthew Adair
Note: Matthew Adair is a senior art education major
Cited: Students for Sensible Drug Policy
Bookmark: (Marijuana)
Bookmark: (Students for Sensible Drug Policy)
Bookmark: (Higher Education Act)
Bookmark: (Students - United States)


We're told a great number of things are important as we're growing up:
a good work ethic, the ability to listen and a strong sense of proper
hygiene, for instance. Topping the list, though, is honesty. Without
honesty, we're told, we can't have anything else. Families,
businesses, even countries are unable to function if we cannot depend
on knowing that we are speaking the truth to one another.

With that said, we should be appalled to know that our government is
lying to us, the students of this university, as well as schools
across the country. It isn't even that we are being lied to, but that,
by lying to us and spreading misinformation, thousands of students are
being denied access to financial aid to help pay for a college education.

The lie in question is the federal government's policy on drug
possession and use, specifically the information spread by the
National Youth Anti-Drug Media Campaign's public service
announcements. The campaign's various television, radio, print and
online ads intend to keep children and young adults away from drug
abuse, but research has shown that these ads often backfire and result
in mistrust towards any effort to discourage substance abuse.

Take, for instance, the Office on National Drug Control Policy's
campaign against marijuana use. This particular arm is one of the most
prominent parts of ONDCP's overall anti-drug campaign, and the one
most of us are familiar with. In an evaluation organized by the
National Institute on Drug Abuse and released in Aug. 2007, it was
found that ONDCP's ads often do more harm than good, making it more
likely that the viewer will try marijuana if they haven't already.

Similarly, research at Texas State University released in May, 2006
agrees with NIDA's findings. Comparing exposure to anti-tobacco and
anti-marijuana ads among 18 and 19-year olds, it was found students
watching anti-marijuana ads were less likely to believe them than
students watching similar anti-tobacco ads.

Everyone from independent researchers to Congress' own Government
Accountability Office agrees: ONDCP's anti-drug campaigns,
specifically their anti-marijuana campaign, does not deter people from
using the drug, and may in fact encourage them to try the drug out of

As a result, most of the students who do light up and get caught lose
their financial aid, due to a provision in the Higher Education Act,
added in 1998, that strips a student of their aid upon conviction of
any drug-related offense, and prevents them from ever receiving aid
ever again. No financial aid often means no college, and no college in
today's world relegates a person to a life in the service industry, or
another dismal, low-paying job with little chance of

By cutting students off from financial aid, ONDCP is setting up a
situation where it becomes more likely that students who have at one
time used drugs will develop a consistent habit of abuse later in
life. Without access to higher education, which opens access to more
money and thus more options for treating drug addiction, the federal
government is essentially writing off the futures of thousands of
young adults as a loss without thinking of what could be done to help

The Higher Education Act is up for reauthorization this year, and
grassroots organizations such as Students for Sensible Drug Policy
have managed to persuade Congress to at least consider revising the
rules on financial aid. It must be our responsibility as students, and
as a nation of people who believe in giving everyone the chance to
make something of their lives, to remove a rule that punishes those
who have already been punished for not knowing who or what to trust.

It is disgraceful that someone can murder, rape, steal or commit any
combination of these, or any other offense, and still be eligible to
receive government grants, loans and scholarships should you ever be
released. If, however, you get caught smoking a joint once, your
future is over. Our government's bad policy and bad information is
perpetuating its own War on Drugs, condemning an untold number of
people to a future of mediocrity when, with help, those same people
could have achieved great things.

If that's the truth our government wants to sell us, then it's time we
just said no to the Aid Elimination Policy.
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MAP posted-by: Richard Lake