WEED the People of the United States: Drug Penalties are Destroying Students

As kids we are told to “Live while you’re young!” and “Enjoy life to the fullest!”. We try new things, meet new people, and want to have the most fun that we can before we are thrown into the unknown world of adulthood. Although many of us make a plan to graduate high school, get through college in 4 years and get a well-paying job, many students today are finding that this plan comes crashing down when their methods of relieving anxiety and stress don’t quite agree with the law.

So? Is it fair that a first time offender will have to kiss his 18 year old dream of attending an Ivy League school goodbye for getting caught with a little green?

marley-herb

Here’s a look into how the penalties given for marijuana possession can tear down a student’s life before it even begins…

Student Loans

The prices of college tuition are already through the roof, but after you are registered as a drug offender, the help of student loans and financial aid practically vanish. Any federal or state drug conviction for the possession, or conspiriacy for the sale of illegal drugs,  disqualifies a student from receiving federal student aid grants and loans.

 Right from (the all-too- familiar) FAFSA’s webpage states:

“In general, if you are convicted of a drug-related felony or misdemeanor that took place while you were receiving Federal student aid, you will become ineligible to receive further aid for a specified period of time upon conviction.”

This chart from FAFSA even more clearly lays out the consequences:

Offense

Possession of Illegal Drugs

Sale of Illegal Drugs

First

1 year of ineligibility from date of conviction

2 years of ineligibility from date of conviction

Second

2 years of ineligibility from date of conviction

Indefinite period of ineligibility*

Third or more

Indefinite period of ineligibility*

Indefinite period of ineligibility*

*Under the law, an indefinite period of ineligibility continues unless your conviction is overturned or otherwise rendered invalid or you meet one of the two early reinstatement requirements specified above.

Through the life of someone affected by the restrictions:

Job/College Acceptance

Even though these charges sometimes can be expunged or dismissed from a record after following all of the required steps, it can still forever tarnish a student’s employment eligibility. Trying to land a  job with a possession charge on your record is, well, not likely. Especially in occupational fields like teaching that strictly prohibit drug and alcohol related offenses.

Over 60% of employers responded in one study that they “probably would not” or “definitely would not” hire an ex-offender. Over 40% of Los Angeles employers surveyed would reject an applicant with a criminal record, without considering the nature of the offense or any other individual factors.

School admissions offices also give the cold shoulder when given the choice between applicants who possess a drug charge vs. those who don’t. “It’s very easy to turn someone like that down, because there are so many other applications where that box is not checked.” Says admissions expert, Marilee Jones.

With discouraging odds like these, students once on the road to success are now shying away from job and school applications that often won’t even look twice at your resume if you have checked the box next to “Have you ever been convicted of a crime?”.

obama-pot
President Barack Obama

 

Psychological Affects

From the standpoint of the individuals who decide the punishments of Marijuana related incidents, it is difficult to see just how much they can affect the lives of the people receiving them. Even after the requirements have been completed and the charge “dismissed”, the mark the charge can leave on a student’s newly beginning life can be catastrophic, especially mentally.

With so much pressure revolving around our futures, it is hard to think that such a commonly used substance could turn all of your hard work upside down if you get caught. Even just the sheer number of disciplinary meetings and payments students are bombarded with as part of their sentence can result in social and academic decline when added on top of various other preexisting school activities and assignments . Sometimes, the snowballing effects can rattle a person irreversibly. In extreme cases, probationers felt as if they have no other choice in extreme cases.

For example: Discipline policies in places as locally as Fairfax County, VA are under fire after the suicides of 2 students who fell under the pressures of the disciplinary system.

Legalizing Marijuana will end the inequalities found within the disciplinary system for drug offenders. Disproportionate and overly harsh drug punishments will no longer tarnish the academic and job applications for students, prevent students from receiving student loans or financial aid, or encroach on a student’s mental wellbeing.

Ahh, a life where marijuana and the rest of the world would finally live in harmony. And I think to myself, what a wonderful world…

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