Drug possession convictions impact lives on many levels. A felony conviction of possession or distribution may result in years of incarceration and subsequent loss of work and educational opportunities. A misdemeanor drug charge may have equally damaging effects.
A few years ago, Time magazine explored the stories of people whose misdemeanor convictions have prevented them from getting jobs or finding sufficient housing. Ironically, misdemeanors are sometimes more harmful than felonies to a person's record due to the difficulties in having a misdemeanor expunged.
Recent government and civilian efforts that promote the future success of people convicted of felony drug possession crimes. However, those with misdemeanor convictions seem to be on their own.
The problem is particularly challenging for people wanting to get a college degree. A drug possession conviction may preclude a student from receiving financial aid. If the conviction took place while the person was receiving aid, disqualification for future aid lasts one year. The second conviction results in a two-year suspension. The third may result in permanent ineligibility.
The conviction and consequences are based on the state in which the offense was committed, even if the student attends school in a state where a drug is legal. Someone convicted of marijuana possession in one state would still be ineligible for financial aid for a school in a state where the drug is legal.
An effort to reduce the consequences for students and anyone convicted of drug possession is ongoing. Until action is taken, a misdemeanor drug conviction may still have long-lasting, detrimental effects.