In 1998, Rep. Mark Souder, R-Ind., an advocate of stringent drug laws, slipped into a House bill an amendment denying federal financial aid for college to anyone who had been convicted of either selling or possessing drugs.Which is a pretty damning statement about the impact of Souder's amendment.
No congressional committee voted on the amendment. But it passed as part of the reauthorization of the Higher Education Act, first enacted in 1965 to create federal financial aid for college students.
In 2004, the group Students for Sensible Drug Policy asked the federal government to give it a state-by-state breakdown of the number of students denied aid as a result of Souder's amendment.
The Department of Education demanded $4,124.19 for the information. SSDP asked for a fee waiver, arguing that releasing the information was in the public's interest and that the group is a cash-strapped nonprofit. The agency denied SSDP's request, arguing that releasing the data could lead to drug legalization.
Public Citizen backed SSDP in court. The New York Times editorialized on its behalf. The federal government blinked. On Wednesday, the Department of Education gave SSDP the state-by-state numbers. Here they are.That's a lot of denials: 189,065. Somehow it never occurs to Souder that blocking young people from financial help for college might actually encourage them to resume drug use or drug dealing.
Of course, given how expensive college tuition has become, it's not hard to see why a student would consider selling pot to raise money.