Pubdate: Thu, 27 Mar 2008
Source: Des Moines Register (IA)
Copyright: 2008 The Des Moines Register.
Author: Jacqueline Lee


The war on drugs is prejudiced against minorities, a group of Drake
University students and professors concluded Wednesday.

"America's war on drugs has really turned into American's war on
nonwhite youth," said Eric Johnson, an education professor at Drake.

Johnson, three other Drake professors and a representative of Law
Enforcement Against Prohibition formed the panel Wednesday evening on
the Drake campus at a discussion hosted by Drake Students for Sensible
Drug Policy.

The group of about 50 students who attended tried to brainstorm a
better drug policy, one that doesn't unfairly affect minorities and
college-bound students, they said.

But the panel and attendees did not settle on a solution.

Some suggested legalizing all drugs, while others demanded equal
punishment for similar offenses.

Jennifer McCrickerd, a Drake philosophy and ethics professor, said,
"If you make drugs legal in the United States, it will destroy the
economies of developing nations."

Alicia Cummins, 20, a sophomore at Drake, started Drake Students for
Sensible Drug Policy in September because, she said, people she knows
were hindered by a provision of the Higher Education Act that renders
students with drug convictions ineligible for federal loans, grants
and work-study programs.

"For young people who want to go to school and want to make something
of themselves, should a mistake really set them back for life?"
Cummins asked.

Cummins' organization is a chapter of the international Students for
Sensible Drug Policy, a grass-roots network of students based in
Washington, D.C.

The international organization estimates that since 2000 nearly
200,000 students have been denied federal financial aid because of
drug convictions.

Some at Wednesday's discussion also questioned the rhetorical
implications of calling the drug issue a war.

"When we put everything in the context of a war, and you accept that
there is a war on drugs, it moves our consciousness and our discourse
in a certain direction," said Bill Lewis, a professor of rhetoric at
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