Paul Castillo is to be commended for raising awareness of the Higher Education Act’s denial of student loans to youth convicted of drug offenses. Instead of empowering at-risk students with a college degree, HEA limits career opportunities and increases the likelihood that those affected will resort to crime. Speaking of crime, convicted rapists and murders are still eligible for federal student loans. Most students outgrow their youthful indiscretions involving illicit drugs. An arrest and criminal record, on the other hand, can be life shattering.
After admitting to smoking pot (but not inhaling), former President Bill Clinton opened himself up to “soft on drugs” criticism. And thousands of Americans have paid the price in the form of shattered lives. More Americans went to prison or jail during the Clinton administration than during any past administration. As an admitted former drinker and alleged illicit drug user, President George W. Bush is also politically vulnerable when it comes to drugs.
While youthful indiscretions didn’t stop Clinton or Bush from assuming leadership positions, an arrest surely would have. The short-term effects of marijuana are inconsequential compared to the long-term effects of criminal records. Students who want to help end the intergenerational culture war otherwise known as the war on some drugs should contact Students for Sensible Drug Policy at www.SchoolsNotPrisons.com.
Robert Sharpe, MPA Policy Analyst Common Sense for Drug Policy