Pubdate: Thu, 24 Sep 2009
Source: Spartan Daily (San Jose State, CA Edu)
Copyright: 2009 Spartan Daily
Author: Alicia Johnson, Staff Writer


About 10 Student for Sensible Drug Policy members gathered in the
student union on Monday evening to discuss the war on drugs and their
success in helping thousands of students with marijuana convictions
obtain financial aid.

Students for Sensible Drug Policy is an international grass-roots
network of students who are concerned about the impact drug abuse has
on our communities, according to its site's mission statement - it has
been active on SJSU's campus since Spring '09.

The group's goal is to spread awareness on the failed drug policies in
the U.S., and to help students and minorities, who are affected by
drug policies, said Alexander Woon, founder of the SJSU chapter.

In the past 11 years, 200,000 students were denied financial
assistance in the United States, Woon said.

"It was unfair that rapists and murderers were able to get financial
aid - it's pretty ridiculous," Woon said. "I'm tired of the amount of
money that we're spending each year on the war on drugs. We're
spending over $50 billion a year fighting this - federally and locally."

According to the group's Web site, convicted murderers and rapists are
eligible to continue receiving federal student loans and grants.

Kamal Boparai, a senior finance student and group treasurer, said
students should care about Students for Sensible Drug Policy because
federal funds affect them.

Before Student for Sensible Drug Policy, students who had marijuana
convictions were disqualified from receiving Federal Student Aid.

Thursday, Congress voted "on an amendment that would continue the
harmful practice of denying financial aid to students with drug
convictions," according to the group's Web site.

The aid elimination penalty was added as an amendment to the Higher
Education act in 1998, according to the site.

"We made phone calls to our representatives, and we got it passed,"
Boparai said. So at least people who were caught with marijuana are no
longer disqualified from financial aid, but people who are selling
marijuana are still (disqualified)."

In addition to fighting the war on drugs, the SJSU chapter also hopes
to implement the Good Samaritan Policy on the campus.

According to Student for Sensible Drug Policy's Web site, under the
Good Samaritan Policy, students who are underage are encouraged to
call for medical help during an emergency related to alcohol or other
drugs without fear of punishment.

Craig Negrete, a senior behavioral science and psychology major and
vice president of Student for Sensible Drug Policy's SJSU chapter,
says the Good Samaritan policy is about saving lives, not about doing
something illegal.

In order to implement the policy, the SJSU club must approach the
student senate. More than 80 universities already have it, including
New Mexico, Negrete said.

Spencer Finkle, a junior liberal studies major, said he has been
trying to get involved in a club for a while, it was the Good
Samaritan Policy that convinced him Student for Sensible Drug Policy
was the right one.

"I actually thought we had something like that on campus," Finkle
said. "I think (students)can learn a lot  if you have a friend that
is overdosing - people are freaking out when that happens. Also,
people are afraid to get into trouble. I think we need to lessen up
the enforcement, and treat everything like a medical issue and get
people some safety."

"Drug use has remained consistent no matter what law they pass, no
matter how long they have been prohibited of use, and there are things
that we can do to reduce the harms done by them, and helping save
lives," Negrete said.

"I feel that people shouldn't be treated as criminals for doing
nonviolent things  it don't make sense to me that somebody who is
being nonviolent and not harming someone else should go to jail and
waste our money, especially with the situation that California is in,"
he said. 
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