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The tale of little Mary Jane


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Arizona Daily Wildcat

Zack Armstrong

By Zack Armstrong
Arizona Daily Wildcat,
November 9, 1999
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Recently, the U.S. Department of Education published its final ruling on a law that would prevent students that have been convicted on drug-related charges from receiving federal financial aid. Their next ruling is expected to involve the prevention of financial aid to students who have participated in the Hustle and the Macarena in the course of the same night. This, of course, is not true, but it was the only thing that I could think of more absurd than the truth.

Details of the law include automatic ineligibility for two years if you are convicted of selling drugs. If you have more than one conviction of this charge then you are denied indefinitely. One might think that this is unimportant because those who are selling drugs have already discovered a means of being financially sound and do not need a college education to do so. But these people are not very smart, and they don't know how competitive dealing can be in today's economy. Besides, one has to keep in mind that the ones with the convictions are the ones who got caught and by definition, they aren't very smart or good at their jobs.

More importantly, this law strips away a chance at rehabilitation. What rehabilitates better than a solid education? Allow me to propose a hypothetical situation:

Little Mary Jane is a high school student, and, like any high school student, she is short on cash. Her gig at Taco Bell didn't work out, and the thought of working in the mall makes her physically ill. She makes a friend who gives her a very fair price on good quantities of a certain green, leafy substance. Our little Mary gets the bright idea to start passing some of this substance off to some of her friends at an equally fair price turning only the slightest profit, but a profit nonetheless.

One tragic day, sweet little M.J. makes the mistake of making a deal in the girl's bathroom at school and gets busted by a particularly nosy teacher. Another example of being in the wrong place at the wrong time. This overzealous teacher calls the police, and, before you know it, Mary Jane is a convicted drug dealer.

Mary is a bright girl and quickly realizes the error of her ways. It doesn't take her long to decide to turn her life around, get an education and get a real job. But, alas, Mary's parents are divorced. Mom is willing to help out, but Dad is a deadbeat and thinks poor Mary is a bad seed. Mary's only chance is financial aid, but as you can all see, this is impossible. Mary's only choice is to return to the profession that she knows best. That's right folks, Mary is a dealer for life, and we have the Department of Education to thank.

Sure, this example is extreme, but the basic premise holds true. If a person is denied the chance to improve his or herself, what else can be done?

There is hope though. Well, kind of. Aid may be reinstated if the student in question completes a rehabilitation program. This, however, would not help our precious Mary Jane. There are very few rehabilitation programs for marijuana use in this country. Most scientists agree that it is not an addictive substance and can therefore not be treated with rehab. Unfortunately, marijuana is more prevalent amongst us college types than the harder stuff. What kind of message does that send? If you are going to do drugs, do the hard stuff, because if you get caught, at least you can be rehabilitated and still be eligible for aid.

There is actually even more hope than that. Officials will only be aware of such convictions if the students tell them about them. There will be a self-report box on aid applications. If you are caught lying, felony charges can be brought upon you. The beauty is that there is no database in existence that these can be cross-referenced with. So, I guess you can just lie. But you didn't hear that from me.

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