Bill to Repeal Financial Aid Ban for Marijuana Smokers, Other Drug Offenders Introduced in Congress

Congressman Barney Frank reintroduced legislation yesterday to repeal federal provisions that currently ban federal financial aid to students who have been convicted of any federal or state drug offense, including smoking marijuana.
“Someone who commits murder or armed robbery is not automatically barred from financial aid eligibility,” Frank said, “but if you have even one non-violent drug conviction you can’t get any aid for a year. Authorities previously had the discretion to bar aid to people based on the severity of their crimes and whether they are taking steps to rehabilitate themselves. My bill would simply restore that discretion.”
Twenty-three co-sponsors have signed on to Frank’s bill, and more than 70 civil and national education groups have endorsed it. Proponents include the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), the National Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators (NASFAA) and NORML.
“All students caught using or selling drugs already pay a penalty through the local, state or federal law enforcement system,” said co-sponsor George Miller (D-Calif.), the ranking Democrat on the House Education and the Workforce Committee. “But only low-income students will face a double penalty of being denied financial aid. That is unfair. Denying students access to financial aid on top of that punishment will only undermine our national goal of creating hope and opportunity for our youth through a quality education.”
According to the Department of Education statistics, more than 8,100 students were denied aid during the 2000-2001 school year because of the ban, which became part of the Higher Education Act in 1998, but only took effect last July.
For more information, please contact R. Keith Stroup, NORML Executive Director, at (202) 483-5500. To send a letter to your member of Congress in support of Frank’s bill, visit: http://capwiz.com/norml2.