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House Democrat offers bill to let students with pot conviction retain federal aid

Rep. Bill Foster (D-Ill.) introduced a bill Friday aimed at helping people who have been convicted of minor marijuana offenses not lose their access to federal student aid. 

The measure would amend the Higher Education Act of 1965 to allow those convicted of possession of marijuana without intent to distribute to retain access to aid for a six-month window while they “complete an approved drug rehabilitation program.”

Under current law, a suspension of federal student aid is automatically triggered after an individual is convicted of a drug offense. 

Foster said the Second Chance for Students Act — co-sponsored by Democratic Reps. Gwen Moore (Wis.), Hank Johnson (Ga.) and Seth Moulton (Mass.), and Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.) — was necessary to prevent individuals from derailing their futures “over one mistake.”

“For many students, financial aid can mean the difference between staying in school and dropping out,” Foster said in a statement. 

“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.”

Moore argued the current law has a significantly negative impact on minority students, a policy she feels needs to change. 

“Losing financial aid can be devastating and often determines whether one can remain in school,” she said.  

“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.”

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