Saturday, April 01, 2006

Congress mandates college for people with drug convictions


FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: **April 1, 2006** CONTACT: Tom Angell, SSDP – 202.293.4414 or

Congress Forces People with Drug Convictions to Attend College

Law that Stripped Aid from 200,000 Students Reversed

WASHINGTON, DC - In a stunning reversal of federal policy, Congress passed a law yesterday that not only repeals the Higher Education Act Aid Elimination Penalty that has denied financial aid to nearly 200,000 students with drug convictions, but actually mandates that people with drug convictions attend college and that the federal government foot the bill.

Frightened by overwhelming public support for a recent lawsuit filed by Students for Sensible Drug Policy (SSDP) challenging the constitutionality of the original penalty, members of Congress scurried to quickly pass a law that would win them favor with their constituents in this election year.

“After eight years of hard work and lobbying by students all across the country, we are thrilled that members of Congress have finally realized that people with drug convictions deserve the right to an education just like anyone else,” said Kris Krane, executive director of SSDP. “However, we are surprised and simply overjoyed that Congress felt it important enough to ensure that all students with drug convictions be given a second chance at an education. SSDP would like to thank Rep. Mark Souder for championing this new law. Sometimes politics truly makes for strange bedfellows.”

Rep. Souder (R-IN), the author of the original HEA Aid Elimination Penalty, had a sudden change of heart after a series of articles written by so-called “whiny campus reporters” led to his staff being flooded by calls from constituents demanding he change the law or be voted out of office. “It is clear to me now that college students deserve to be treated with dignity and respect,” Souder said in a written statement about the new policy. “This new law will help me atone for ruining so many students futures over the last eight years.”

For more information on the new law, have a HAPPY APRIL FOOLS DAY!!! If you would like to find out more about the real campaign to repeal the HEA Aid Elimination Penalty, please visit

Students for Sensible Drug Policy, a national organization with college and high school chapters, is committed to providing education on harms caused by the War on Drugs, working to involve youth in the political process, and promoting an open, honest, and rational discussion of alternative solutions to our nation's drug problems.

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Friday, March 31, 2006

The HEA "suck" provision

Good ole' Tom Angell.

SSDP's very own Campaigns Director recently took a trip down to the University of Florida to educate students about the harms caused by a provision in the Higher Education Act. This provision, which automatically denies federal financial aid to people with drug convictions, has been called the "HEA Drug Provision" for many years, and is now being referred to as the "HEA Aid Elimination Penalty" since the filing of our federal lawsuit.

Because of all the confusion ensuing from the recent name-change, Mr. Angell has apparently begun to refer to the law in laymen terms:
Angell spoke to about 30 students in the Reitz Union on Thursday night as part of NORML UF's push for students to become aware of the HEA drug provision, which he said is "also known as the law that sucks a lot and ruins hundreds of students' lives every year."
Indeed, no matter what it's called, the "suck provision" is an idiotic piece of legislation that deserves to be wiped from the law books once and for all.

If you think this law sucks as much as Tom Angell does, please contribute to SSDP, so we can win our lawsuit against the government, and have the provision deemed unconstitutional. We are also looking for additional plaintiffs.

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

What's the DEAl?

Here's my response to DEA Administrator Karen Tandy's letter in the Washington Post. Tandy's original letter follows. Please take five minutes and send a short letter of your own.
To the Editor:

Karen Tandy, head of the Drug Enforcement Administration, makes a misleading claim about teens, marijuana, and drug treatment in her March 29 letter to the Post ("A drug dealer's toll on Americans").

Ms. Tandy cherrypicks the statistic that more teens enter treatment for marijuana than for any other drug, but fails to mention that 54 percent of adolescents entering treatment for marijuana were coerced by the criminal justice system (citation below).

It turns out marijuana isn't the addictive substance the DEA wants to paint it as. The fact is, the greatest harm associated with marijuana is being arrested and sent to jail. Who wouldn't pick treatment over incarceration if given the choice?

Tom Angell, Campaigns Director
Students for Sensible Drug Policy
1623 Connecticut Ave NW; Suite 300
Washington, DC 20009
phone: (202) 293-4414
cell: (202) 557-4979
fax: (202) 293-8344
AIM: ThisIsTomAngell

Get the latest news and DARE Generation views at

Source for stat: Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, Office of Applied Studies. The DASIS report: Treatment referral sources for adolescent marijuana users. Rockville, MD. March 29, 2002. Online at:
And here's DEA Administrator Tandy's original letter:

A Drug Dealer's Toll on Americans

Wednesday, March 29, 2006; Page A18

Marc Emery, who distributed millions of marijuana seeds throughout the country, admits the accuracy of the Drug Enforcement Administration's charges against him, but he denies harming Americans ["High Crimes, or a Tokin' Figure?" Style, March 18].

Like all dealers, Mr. Emery turns a blind eye to marijuana's victims -- people like Victoria Rogers, a mother driving with her children when she was killed by a marijuana-intoxicated motorist.

Marijuana feeds thousands of addictions -- so many that more teenagers enter treatment for marijuana dependency than for all other drugs combined. Thousands of adolescents whose brains are still developing also suffer from depression, memory impairment and diminished judgment because of marijuana. Users destroy their lungs because marijuana smoke contains 50 to 70 percent more cancer-causing chemicals than tobacco smoke.

That Mr. Emery sees no consequences of his actions does not change the fact that they destroy innocent American lives and that he should and will face legal consequences as a result.



Drug Enforcement Administration


Please take five minutes and send a letter of your own.

Whatever, loser. BUSTED rules!

Scott over at Flex Your Rights has a hilarious tirade responding to a foolish blogger at This guy actually thought that BUSTED is made by the ACLU, instead of SSDP's suitemates Flex Your Rights. What's even more foolish is that he doesn't like BUSTED. Who the hell is this guy, anyway?

If we're lucky, he'll blog next about the ACLU working with SSDP to sue the government over the unconstitutional HEA Aid Elimination Penalty.

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

SSDP: Destroying the treadmill of injustice

We've had a tremendous week of media converage following the launch of one lawsuit against the federal government and the victory of another. Just do a Google-News search for "Students for Sensible Drug Policy", and you'll see what I mean.

But there's one recent editorial on the HEA drug provision that I'd like to point out, due to its clever accompanying cartoon: Thanks, Lariat.

Michigan schools reject drug testing

In a unanimous vote, the Hale Area Schools Board of Education in Michigan just said "no" to random student drug testing, despite the fact that the Drug Czar sent them money to implement such a program.
St. Joseph Health System was awarded a $525,000 three-year grant to implement the new program for students in grades nine through 12 in the four county high schools.

While all four superintendents signed a letter of agreement allowing the health system to apply for the federal grant from the U.S. Department of Education, it required board approval and possibly policy changes to implement the program within the school districts.
It's encouraging to know that in this cash-strapped time, educators still have the good sense to reject harmful and ineffective programs in spite of the federal government's monetary temptations.

I wonder what will happen to the money the school district was awarded. Knowing the Drug Czar, he'll probably spend it sending his cronies around the country to push drug testing onto even more schools.

Monday, March 27, 2006

SSDP vanquishes government in court

SSDP defeated the government in federal court late last week! Here's our press release:
Students Prevail in Lawsuit Against Dept. of Education

Government Surrenders Data on Drug Law to Avoid Court Battle

WASHINGTON, DC – After being sued by one of the nation’s largest student organizations, the U.S. Department of Education has agreed to waive a hefty fee and turn over data on the effects of a law that strips financial aid from college students with drug convictions. The group, Students for Sensible Drug Policy (SSDP), submitted a Freedom of Information Act request more than a year ago seeking a simple state-by-state breakdown of the number of people denied aid due to the law. Nearly 200,000 have been affected nationwide.

SSDP, represented by the consumer advocacy organization Public Citizen, filed a lawsuit in January after the government refused to waive a hefty $4,000 fee to provide the data. The Department of Education erroneously claimed that SSDP needed to pay the fee because the information is not in the public interest, but instead could further the commercial interests of those who might profit from the legalization of drugs. Last week though, the government agreed to waive the fee and provide the data by March 31 to avoid a losing court battle.

“Next time federal officials want to stifle a group whose message they don’t like, they’ll have to think of a much better excuse,” said Kris Krane, executive director of SSDP. “Federal bureaucrats thought students would give up easily in our quest to reveal the disastrous impact this punitive Drug War policy has on our generation. They were wrong.”

Added Adina Rosenbaum, the Public Citizen attorney who handled the case, “The information requested by SSDP was clearly in the public interest. We are glad the government has decided not to defend its erroneous decision to charge SSDP fees.”

A copy of the suit is available at

Last week, SSDP and the ACLU filed a separate lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of the overarching aid ban for students with drug convictions. See for more info.

Students for Sensible Drug Policy, an organization with college and high school chapters, is committed to providing education on harms caused by the War on Drugs, working to involve youth in the political process, and promoting an open, honest, and rational discussion of alternative solutions to our nation's drug problems. Visit Public Citizen is a national, nonprofit consumer advocacy organization based in Washington, D.C. Visit

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If you appreciate what SSDP is doing, we'd appreciate it if you could make a small (or large) donation.

It's official... Drug War is full of crap

The Washington Post has a story in yesterday's paper about a brilliant new program being pushed by the ONDCP to more accurately determine the rate of cocaine use in the population. Amazingly, the government thinks that people might actually lie on government funded surveys asking about their drug use habits. So John Walters, not content with inspecting the excrament of high school students all across the country, will literally be analyzing the nation's feces! OK, not quite literally, although the image of John Walters wading through our raw sewage sure brings a smile to my face.

In all seriousness, the ONDCP has implemented a pilot program that analyzes the content of wastewater from Fairfax County, VA and other communities in the Potomac River basin around Washington, DC. They hope to examine the sewage for cocaine content as a means of more accurately determining the rate of cocaine use among the local population.

It's tempting to call this project a massive "waste" of our tax dollars, but any program that requires ONDCP officials to spend their time playing with poo rather than arresting and imprisoning low level drug offenders can't be all bad. After all, they already advocate law enforcement searching our garbage, and teachers and employers handling our urine. It's only fitting that the ONDCP would find something useful in our feces.

I wish I were making this stuff up. If you want to read for yourself, check out the Washington Post story.

Tragedy for graduate student after being falsely accused of drug dealing by paid informant

Via Talk Left. Charles "Chuck" Plinton was a University of Akron graduate student with a full scholarship who talked about going into law enforcement one day. His life was tragically cut short by suicide after a paid police informant wrongly accused him of selling less than $100 worth of marijuana, leading the University to kick him out of school. Disturbingly, Plinton was disciplined by the University even though he'd already been acquitted of the charges in a criminal trial.

The informant, 35 year old Richard Dale Harris, was given a fake class schedule and dorm room by the University and paid $50 by police for every drug buy he made on Akron's campus. Harris claimed Plinton sold him marijuana twice, but time sheets showed Plinton was at his job during the first alleged sale and dorm surveillance tapes showed Plinton was dressed differently from the description given by Harris in the second alleged sale.

The evidence of Plinton's innocence was mounting when suddenly, three months after Plinton's arrest, "[t]he lead detective called the arresting officer and asked him to write a new, additional arrest report detailing an alleged confession that Plinton made as he was led away in handcuffs on April 26.

The officer, Jeff Newman, testified the three months went by because he was too busy with classes and other commitments."

It took the jury only 40 minutes to return a verdict of not-guilty.

But, the jury's verdict wasn't enough for the University of Akron, which went ahead with a school disciplinary hearing. By a vote of 3-2, the school's disciplinary board found Plinton "responsible" for "dealing drugs to a confidential informant." The school suspended him for a semester, took away his scholarship and stipend, and banned him from the dorms for life.

After a year of trying to recover from the ordeal, Plinton took his own life. According to his mother, "[t]he last thing on his lips was, 'I should have my degree.'"

The University continues to defend the results of the disciplinary hearing.

FIRE's "The Torch" also has more.

Sunday, March 26, 2006

I know ya heard us on the radio... true

NPR did a great piece on student drug testing today. Kris Krane, SSDP's executive director, is quoted, as is an articulate high school student who is opposed to drug testing. The piece makes the Bush administration look really bad and highlights the fact that they've cut money for other anti-drug programs in schools while they continue to dump dollars into drug testing, without any solid studies showing that it works.