Saturday, February 04, 2006

Why is the government stifling students’ curiosity?

One has to wonder why the U.S. Department of Education is so determined to prevent Students for Sensible Drug Policy from exposing the impact of a law that uses education as a sacrificial lamb in War on Drugs.

We just want to find out how many would-be college students in each state have been stripped of their financial aid because they have drug convictions. We applied for a fee waiver under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), which we qualify for. But the feds told SSDP we’d never get the numbers from them so easily and that we needed to instead pay them $4,124.19 in exchange for the data.

Clearly, the government thinks this information is a pretty damning indictment of the Drug War’s ill effects. In a real stretch of reason, the Department of Education said we can’t have the information for free because, they claim, it could lead to drug legalization and that SSDP might profit from it.

Oh, does the government really want to make the argument that the more the public finds out about how punitive drug policies are impacting their communities, the closer we’ll be to ending the Drug War?

Besides, as the New York Times said, it’s simply “implausible ” that we could profit from this information. We’re a nonprofit organization!

And SSDP’s puny budget just can’t afford the more than $4,000 the government wants to take from us to get the data. If you can, please make a donation to help SSDP fight against harsh policies that use students as scapegoats for the Drug War.

Federal FOIA officers are charged with putting up as many roadblocks as it takes to prevent concerned citizens from making the government pay to reveal its activities. They probably thought that a nonprofit student organization like ours would give up easily.

They were wrong. We took them to court. And we’re going to win.

Now that the government knows we’re serious about revealing the disastrous impact that punitive Drug War policies are having on communities across the nation, it’s their turn to give up.

If the Department of Education is smart, they’ll just bite the bullet and pay the $4,000 themselves right now. Otherwise, they’ll have to engage us in a futile court battle and will ultimately have shell out the money to compile the data anyway. Plus, they’ll have to pay for their own attorneys’ fees and SSDP’s attorney’s fees (once we win).

Come on, Secretary Spellings. Direct your lawyers to surrender. Students are demanding that you uncover the dirt on this disastrous drug law. We deserve this basic information.

Lawmakers need to know exactly how many of their constituents' academic careers are being crushed by this destructive policy. Congress did recently scale back the Drug Provision. But tens of thousands of college students will continue to be stripped of their aid every year it remains on the lawbooks, even in its altered form.

Students are all-too-aware that this misguided law is hurting our peers. Once we uncover this data, there’ll be no excuse for Congress to turn a blind eye to the need to completely repeal the financial aid ban and reinstate eligibility to all determined students.

Make sure to sign up for SSDP’s periodic e-mail news updates and action alerts.

8 comments:

Justin Holmes said...

Tom Angell, you are (and have been for some time) badass.

800 pound gorilla said...

I'll be looking for the results of this suit..... in the back pages of my local newspaper. The "meth epidemic" makes front page news in the papers. The results of legitimate studies showing medicinal values for "dangerous drugs" gets relegated to page 9 or oped where few people bother to check. Those who are informed about drugs already know the current policy to be severely flawed anyway.

I read somewhere recently that "a carefully crafted web of lies perpetuated over long periods of time can make the truth seem patently ridiculous when publicized". Our society has become so accustomed to being told about the problems with "dangerous drugs" and then told how the DEA and FDA protect the public that they never even consider the possibility that there are no standards. Surely, the government wouldn't openly lie to us about this. And if they did, surely some newspapers would challenge these lies. There must be some valid reason why we throw people in jail for using certain drugs [oops, there I've mentioned something that does get some media attention: that jailing users isn't the best method of dealing with the "dangerous drug" problem].

Tom Angell said...

800 lb gorilla,

Just stop it. Please.

This is big news, as evidenced by the fact that the NEW YORK TIMES ran an editorial on it.

Why do you continually seek to put down SSDP and all the good work we are doing?

Your defeatist posts aren't helping anyone.

Last time I checked, you had a blog of your own where you can rant as much as you want. But maybe you post irrelevent comments here instead of on our own blog because we get a lot more traffic than you do...

Anonymous said...

Wow. sounds like SSDP is staring to bully one of their own. If you're so supportive of freedom why dont you let 800 lb gorilla have his say?

800 lb. gorilla- keep on doing what you do best. It's always good to have checks and balances such as you in our drug reform movement. Tom et al know that the insults directed at you are petty and unproductive.

Anonymous said...

micah, tom, you control this blog right? just delete that giant monkey's comments. it's not uncommon for blogs to use comment screening in order to filter out such ranting.

800 lb. gorilla is the type of fringe character you'll run into repeatedly in drug policy reform. they mean well, but have extreme views and don't know how to express them civilly.

in case you're wondering, this isn't the only forum where he's active. google his user name - rimchamp77 - and you'll see it all over the net, including here. he wrote a drug education book for sale here. and the blog for his book, sans comments, is here.

Micah Daigle said...

Anon #1: Wow. sounds like SSDP is staring to bully one of their own. If you're so supportive of freedom why dont you let 800 lb gorilla have his say?

Anon #2: micah, tom, you control this blog right? just delete that giant monkey's comments.

Anon #1, we do let 800lb gorilla have his say. As Anon #2 pointed out, we have the power to delete his comments. But we haven't.

Tom and I are not "bullying" one of our own. JT Barrie is not a student, nor a member of SSDP. Rather, he is a self-proclaimed expert who insults our work by making unsubstantiated claims. The easy solution would be to delete his comments as Anon #2 suggested. Instead, we have continually encouraged him to keep posting, while asking him to respect the topic at hand and comment accordingly.

Since he has failed to do so, our contributers may have to consider taking a hard line. This would not be an attempt at bullying, but an attempt to foster positive discussion on our message boards. As long as this gorilla keeps commenting first on each of our posts, the subsequent discussion is wasted on his irrelivant points rather than the topic at hand.

We want to keep this an open, productive forum. But this gorilla is hogging the room.

Jeremy said...

As long as this gorilla keeps commenting first on each of our posts, the subsequent discussion is wasted on his irrelivant points rather than the topic at hand.

amen to that micah - at first i found the gorillas comments interesting, but after reading the same well intentioned POV in every comment, i get more annoyed than informed with each one that i read - the biggest problem being sticking to the subject. the second being the negativity.

Lauren said...

There is no excuse now. How do they avoid the subject?

Tom, CONGRADULATIONS! To the whole team! You guys are fantastic!