Medical Marijuana||Prohibition

Rep. Mark Souder, Longtime Anti-Marijuana Zealot, Resigns Amid Scandal

Rep. Mark Souder (R-Indiana), perhaps the most fanatic opponent of sensible marijuana laws in the U.S. Congress, announced that he is resigning this morning amid revelations that he had an affair with a 45-year-old staffer.

Souder, who was preparing to run for his ninth term in office, has spent the last 16 years fighting for cruel and unscientific drug policies, many of which have caused irreparable harm to his country and his constituents. Among the lowlights:

  • In defiance of mountains of evidence saying otherwise, Souder has repeatedly declared that marijuana cannot be a medicine and has vocally supported efforts to stop the advance of medical marijuana laws that protect and provide care for patients.
  • Souder was a primary author and defender of the “Aid Elimination Penalty” provision of the Higher Education Act, which for more than a decade prevented thousands of students with even minor drug convictions from receiving federal financial aid for college. (Luckily, that provision might soon be overturned, despite Souder’s best efforts.)
  • Over the years, Souder’s office has issued numerous press releases spewing long-debunked nonsense about marijuana, such as this one, which claims “smoked marijuana, along with tobacco and alcohol, is the gateway drug for all other drug abuse” and that the Obama administration’s position on state medical marijuana laws will “over the next few years, result in higher crime rates, more highway deaths, and destroyed lives.”

During his reign of ignorance, Souder also had several notable run-ins with MPP staffers.

  • At a 2001 hearing of a U.S. House subcommittee, Souder got into heated debate with MPP executive director Rob Kampia, who was testifying in favor of removing criminal penalties for medical marijuana patients. Souder told Kampia: “You’re an articulate advocate for an evil position.”
  • In a scene from the 2007 Showtime documentary “In Pot We Trust,” MPP director of government relations Aaron Houston asked the congressman if there were any chance he’d ever change his position on medical marijuana. “There isn’t such a thing as medical marijuana, so I would never change my mind,” Souder replied. When Houston pointed out the government’s own Institute of Medicine found otherwise, Souder slammed a door in his face after twice declaring, “There is no such thing as medical marijuana.”

But now, it seems, Souder’s days of opposing compassionate and science-based drug policies are finally at an end. It’s about time, Congressman. Don't let the door hit you on the way out.

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Republican Congressman Fails to Punish Students With Drug Convictions

Sep 17, 2009 Kate Zawidzki

aid elimination penalty, Souder

Today, Congressman Mark Souder (R-Ind.) attempted to pass an amendment that would continue to prevent students with even minor drug convictions from receiving financial aid. His amendment was withdrawn, paving the way for students with drug convictions to seek higher education and a better life.

Souder authored a provision in 1998 that for nearly 10 years has blocked students with drug convictions from receiving financial aid. This year, congressional Democrats added language to SAFRA (Student Aid and Fiscal Responsibility Act, HR 3221), which fixed the problem created by Souder’s provision. During discussion of the bill today, Souder offered an amendment that would have undone this fix.

Congressman Ed Perlmutter (D-Colo.), a close ally of MPP, convinced Souder to withdraw his amendment.

Eliminating financial aid for students with drug convictions is one of the most small-minded policies in America’s war on drugs. By preventing these students from seeking opportunities in higher education, the provision locked many students into a cycle of poverty and forced low-income students to bear the brunt of a misguided, prohibitionist mindset. The fix, which would allow students access to aid, will provide hundreds of thousands of students the opportunity to make a better life for themselves and their families.

SAFRA is still working its way through the legislative process. MPP will continue to update you on its progress.

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