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Volume 68, Isssue 106, Friday, February 28, 2003

Opinion

Drugs impair your education

Sara Follin
Guest Columnist

With out question, all people have used drugs, whether lawfully drinking a beer, popping a pill to cure a headache, or addictively to self-medicate and for recreational escape. Where do we draw the line between necessity, privilege and pleasure?

When I was twelve years old my Daddy told me, "Smoking weed is like skinny dipping; when you are old enough and in the right company it is okay to do." 

I believe him, but in actuality, our government makes these decisions for us. The government determines the scale of legality regarding all consumable non-food substances, not my Daddy. 

Consequently, the government is engaged in a War on Drugs because the scale of substances is so vast and the number of drug users so large.

Some believe that the War on Drugs is a hypocritical, racist war against the poor, an unconstitutional infringement on personal liberties. Others would argue that the drug war has been based on science and public health considerations. 

Usually feeling stuck in the middle; I would like to explore two new escalations in the War on Drugs that may sway you, like it did me, further to one side.

One of the Nationis most recent battles in the War on Drugs is the U.S. Patriot Act, a response to the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. Written in a way that classifies casual drug users and drug dealers as terrorists. The U.S. Patriot Act allows the indefinite detention of "terrorists," without having to press charges or serve warrants and takes away a detaineeis right to call a lawyer. 

Americanis posttraumatic stress after the fall of the World Trade Center must have left us totally complacent with the current leadership, because obliging an obvious violation of civil rights; I have heard no battle cries.

A second escalation, a 1998 revision of The Higher Education Act (HEA), establishing federal financial aid programs, signed three decades ago by President Lyndon Johnson, blocks college opportunities to students that have a drug offense. Approximately 100,000 students have been denied financial aid since the enactment. Students with wealthy parents are not affected by the new changes and the revision does nothing to address underage alcohol use on campus, an obvious, yet overlooked hypocrisy. 

New laws such as the U.S. Patriot Act and the HEA revision, make it even more difficult to choose sides between fighting for health and peace or fighting for freedom and personal liberties. Cycles of abuse ruin lives. It hurts to see people self-medicating their pain, distress, and low self-esteem with illegal drugs or stuck in the cycle of drug dealing, without the hope, resources and education to get out. Just as when young people are enslaved away to the prison industrial complex by mandatory minimum sentencing, I will always be incensed. 

Parenthetically, the actual decision to ‘Just Say Noi is a personal one. Those who choose say no should be proud to be drug free in 2003. Yes, up with hope, and down with dope.

For those who choose instead to ‘puff, puff, passi remember, if you get caught now, you could not only lose your right to enroll in college, but also your civil rights as well.

Follin, a freshman university studies student, can be reached via dccampus@mail.uh.edu
 

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