- The Washington Times - Friday, July 26, 2019

College students convicted of marijuana possession would be able to continue receiving financial aid under federal legislation proposed Friday in the House of Representatives.

Introduced by Rep. Bill Foster, Illinois Democrat, the Second Chance for Students Act would allow financial aid recipients convicted of marijuana possession to retain assistance afterward by completing an approved drug rehabilitation program within six months.

Under existing law, the Higher Education Act of 1965, students become ineligible for federal aid upon being “convicted of any offense under any Federal or State law involving the possession or sale of a controlled substance,” including marijuana, for a minimum of one year or until completing an approved drug rehab program and passing multiple tests.

If signed into law, the bill would allow students to continue receiving aid while attending rehab rather than waiting until afterward.

“One mistake shouldn’t mean the end of a student’s education,” Mr. Foster said in a statement. “For many students, financial aid can mean the difference between staying in school and dropping out. This legislation would ensure that students stay in school while they complete the required rehabilitation program. No student should have their future determined by one bad choice.”

The bill is co-sponsored by Rep. Gwen Moore of Wisconsin, Rep. Hank Johnson of Georgia, Rep. Seth Moulton of Massachusetts and Rep. Eleanor Holmes Norton, D.C.’s non-voting congressional delegate, all Democrats.

“Currently, students who are convicted of possessing marijuana risk losing their federal aid, no matter the quantity,” Mr. Moore said in a statement. “Losing financial aid can be devastating and often determines whether one can remain in school. This policy harms students of color, who are often targeted for low-level offenses like marijuana possession. It’s why I am thrilled to support this bill because a marijuana conviction shouldn’t jeopardize a students’ future or access to educational opportunity.”

A member of the House Committee on Financial Services for nearly a decade, Mr. Foster introduced similar versions of the Second Chance for Students Act during previous years Congressional sessions without success. The bill is more likely to find success during the current 116th Congress, however, where the Democratic majority has signaled its support for effectively ending the longstanding federal prohibition on marijuana.

Marijuana is federally outlawed on account of its placement as a Schedule 1 drug under the U.S. Controlled Substances Act, though most states have passed laws legalizing the plant for medicinal and/or recreational purposes.

Another bill introduced Monday, meanwhile, Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement Act, would effectively decriminalize marijuana at the federal level. It was introduced Monday by Rep. Jerrold Nadler, New York Democrat, and Sen. Kamala Harris, California Democrat and a 2020 presidential candidate.

• Andrew Blake can be reached at ablake@washingtontimes.com.

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