Federal Student Aid and Marijuana

In Washington, although marijuana is legal, it’s still a crime to possess over a certain amount. Possession of over 1 oz of leafy marijuana is a misdemeanor and possession over 40 grams (1.4 oz) is a felony.

20 U.S.C. sec. 1091(r), a federal law, specifies that students become ineligible if convicted of “any offense under any Federal or State law involving the possession or sale of a controlled substance for conduct that occurred during a period” in which the student was receiving federal aid.

Marijuana is still classified as a Schedule I controlled substance under federal law. Therefore, someone who is convicted under WA State law of misdemeanor possession of marijuana under 40 grams means that they would become ineligible to receive federal student loans. The first offense carries a 1 year ineligibility period, the second offense is 2 years, and the third is indefinite.

So it’s important to bear in mind that although no one is serving lengthy prison sentences for a minor marijuana charge these days, there’s still a law on the books that can carry a lifelong “sentence”, so to speak, by blocking access to higher education. The consequences are higher for those students who were born lower in the socioeconomic ladder, i.e., whose parents can’t help cover tuition.

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