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Marijuana And College Aid


420 Staff
Anything that keeps ex-offenders from attending college makes it more likely that they will be caught in the revolving door that leads to prison. Tens of thousands of people have been pushed in that direction since the 1990s when Congress passed a law that barred even minor drug offenders from receiving federal education aid. The law applies even to offenses so minor that they are normally punished by probation, a small fine or community service.

Congress softened the law last year, eliminating a provision that denied assistance to people with even petty drug offenses more than a decade old. Now it's time to repeal the remaining part of the law, which affects students who commit crimes while actually receiving aid.

The law is wrong-headed on several counts. It primarily affects low-income students and exempts the wealthy, who don't need aid to attend college. It targets young people of color, who are disproportionately prosecuted for drug offenses and already less likely to complete college. It does not deter drug use, especially among addicts who need treatment to break their habits.

Beyond that, young people who commit errors in judgment, as young people can be counted on to do, are penalized twice -- once by the courts and once by the student aid system. They are also placed at risk of never getting an education at all.

Federal college aid was never intended to be used as a weapon of enforcement. Any attempt to employ it that way inevitably results in perverse and unintended results.

Source: New York Times (NY)
Copyright: 2007 The New York Times Company
Contact: letters@nytimes.com
Website: The New York Times - Breaking News, World News & Multimedia
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