ST. BONAVENTURE, N.Y. (U-WIRE) - From the famed "Just Say No" campaign of the 1980s to mandatory prison sentences, the war on drugs has always been about quick-fix solutions.
Now, the Department of Education has entered the fight.
A portion of the 1999 higher education bill expected to be signed by President Clinton next week would mandate the suspension of federal financial aid to students convicted of using, possessing or selling illegal drugs.
Under the bill, first-time offenders for drug possession would receive a mandatory one-year suspension of their federal aid, which includes grants and student loans. The more convictions a student had, the longer aid would be suspended.
This law, which mirrors mandatory sentences for drug sale and possession, forces university officials to suspend aid without looking at any mitigating circumstances.
There's a big difference between a junkie, a drug pusher and a student who does something really stupid one Friday night.
To punish them all equally because the offenses include drugs undermines our legal system.
Not giving officials, whether its judges or university officials, the opportunity to evaluate each case individually eliminates any hope of justice.
This law is also class-based. It punishes only those students who receive federal aid. What about the millions of students whose families are wealthy enough to afford school without a student loan? Or the smartest students, who get academic scholarships? Or athletes, whose talent allows them to get a free education?
The law makes a class distinction between the wealthy and the poor, which is inherently unfair. A law that discriminates in any way is wrong, no matter how noble its intentions.
There's no way to justify illegal drug use. Drugs do a lot of damage to users, their friends and families. But continuing to squeeze these people with harsh penalties leads to greater tragedies.
Quick-fix solutions play well on the news and in the headlines, particularly in a mid-term election year, when sound bites win votes.
But no easy solution ever saved one addict from his or her problem or brought one overdose victim back to life.
Violence and aggressive tactics won't win the war on drugs. This needs to be a peaceful war of love and compassion for addicts and their families.
Moritz is a staff columnist for
The Bona Venture at
St. Bonaventure University.