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Just Say No or Lose Loan

July 13, 1998|KENNETH R. WEISS

What a bummer: Get busted for smoking pot . . . and lose your student loan.

Under legislation passed by the House of Representatives, any student convicted of possession or sale of an illegal drug would no longer be eligible for any federal grant, loan or work study money.

First-time offenders merely caught using drugs would lose their aid for a year, second-timers would lose their aid for two years. Those convicted of dealing drugs would face a two-year suspension after the first offense and be banned for life for a second one.

NORML, the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, expects the restrictions, which were tacked on to the Higher Education Reauthorization Act, to become law before the end of the year.

"From what the Democrats are telling me, there's no way to get it out of there," said Keith Stroup, NORML's executive director. "This has come up before, but usually it gets weeded out."

Stroup objects to the legislation because it singles out nonviolent drug offenses for harsh penalties. "If a student is falling-down drunk and drives, no problem," he said. "If a student commits a violent crime, no problem. But if students get arrested for a joint, they lose their student aid."

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