Congressional Package Repeals Ban on Student Aid to Those with Past Drug Convictions

Marijuana and Teens

Language included in the appropriation package approved by Congress on Monday includes provisions repealing the longstanding federal ban on providing student aid eligibility to those with certain drug convictions.

As first reported by Marijuana Moment, provisions in the nearly 6000-page package amend a 1998 federal law that mandated those applying for student aid to disclose if they ever had a drug-related conviction, and barred hundreds of thousands of applicants from receiving funding. The new law strikes the subsection of the Higher Education Act that established the drug-related eligibility standard.

Rachel Wissner, co-interim executive director of Students for Sensible Drug Policy (SSDP), told Marijuana Moment: “Over the last two decades, we have been fighting alongside other drug policy reform and education organizations to scale back the penalty. Now that the penalty has fully been repealed, SSDP looks forward to the opportunity to work with Congress and the new administration on broader drug policy reform that ensure those who have been most harmed by the war on drugs are not left behind. We celebrate that Congress has finally accepted that a drug conviction does not mean that someone should be denied access to higher education.”

The new law also restores the eligibility of those incarcerated to apply for student aid (Pell grants). Those in prison have been ineligible to receive Pell grants since the passage of an expansive 1994 crime bill.

Commenting on the reforms, Rep. Robert C. Scott (D-VA), Chairman of the House Education Committee, said: “Congress has a responsibility to expand access to quality higher education, which remains the surest path to the middle class. While this is not the comprehensive overhaul of the Higher Education Act, and there is still work to be done, this proposal will help millions of students.”