Drug Policy

Who Will Reform New York's Insane Drug Laws?

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Republican operative and New York native Roger Stone tracks Empire State politics closely. He's long been appalled by the phony and slow-paced reform of New York's draconian "Rockefeller" drug laws. Here, he offers a vision of hope (in the guise of Democratic Atty. Gen. Andrew Cuomo and Gov. David Paterson, of all things!) and horror (upstate pols whose districts remain unchanged due to the counting of non-voting prisoners as residents):

Democrats are now in charge in Albany. Two of the more stentorian voices of Rockefeller reform occupy the Governor's mansion and the Attorney General's office. No senator was more eloquent about the need for drug law reform than David Paterson, and Andrew Cuomo displayed admirable fortitude when he called for outright repeal of the Rockefeller Drug Laws during his 2002 bid for governor. A real reform bill, sponsored by Reform Commission member Assemblyman Joe Lentol, has been floating around the Assembly while the Republicans were at the helm in the Senate. With the Democrats seemingly in perfect alignment, the hour for reform is nigh.

In 2005, Andrew Cuomo wrote a compelling editorial for the Albany Times Union titled "Prison Inmates, Republican Constituents." In that piece, he railed against Governor Pataki's unwillingness to challenge New York's Republican Party interests in order to enact honest reform of the draconian drug laws. He pointed out that the population figures that determine Senate and Assembly districts include prison inmates, a policy whose beneficiaries just happen to be upstate Republicans in the districts where those inmates are counted as constituents. In fact, the very existence of seven upstate senate districts depends upon thousands of pseudo constituents behind bars who cannot vote for the legislators their numbers help send to Albany. Two of those seats belong to Mike Nozzolio and Dale Volker, both vociferous opponents of Rockefeller reform and former chairs of the very committees where Rockefeller reform bills went to die. Accordingly, Mr. Cuomo wrote, "It's simply not in the Republicans' political interests to support measures that would let those locked up under the old drug laws go free." It was the perfect cycle, one that generated and reinforced incumbency and power.

The elephant in the reform room is the Upstate economy, of course. The Governor is on a fiscal war path, as he needs to be. Reform could cost jobs wholesale upstate. Oh the horror. The cotton industry took a hit when slavery ended, too.

Whole thing here.

Reason on drug policy here.

Roger Stone talks to Reason.tv about "new media and old campaign tricks" below (go here for podcast and related links):

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  1. Good article. I can’t remember where but I read that the main reason why convicted felons are still unable to vote is due to some sample research showing that said felons seemed to vote roughly 85% democrat.

  2. New York is such a fucked up state. I’m so glad I don’t live there any more.

  3. Epi,

    The Mississippi of the Northeast . . . or is that New Jersey?

  4. if andrew cuomo has even a small hand in upturning this stuff i’ll take back a good 75% of all the things i yell at the tv every time i hear his ridiculous voice.

  5. I won’t be satisfied until they legalize them. This step still holds that drugs are bad, mkay.

    Meanwhile, Larkfest last year was a veritable contact high hotspot right in downtown Albany.

  6. I’ve an idea. Let’s count inmates as 3/5’s a person for representation purposes.

  7. NY can’t just repeal these laws because there are a lot of prisons upstate and the economy depends on a steady supply of prisoners to support the prisons and their attendant guards, etc.

  8. Upstate should secede from New York. I think its in everyones interests

  9. ‘I can’t remember where but I read that the main reason why convicted felons are still unable to vote is due to some sample research showing that said felons seemed to vote roughly 85% democrat.’

    And why do many Democrats support votes for felons?

    Let’s consider the issue of votes for felons without conflating it with the issue of what ought to be a felony in the first place. There are many felonies which ought not to be felonies (there are felonies which ought not even to be *crimes*), and the answer to that is to change the law so that they are no longer felonies. It would be inadequate to let them keep their felony conviction and associated punishment, while handing them a ballot.

    For those felonies which *ought* to be felonies – murder, rape, burglary, torture, slave trafficking, etc – what is the basis of letting folks convicted of such activities vote?

  10. I’ve an idea. Let’s count inmates as 3/5’s a person for representation purposes.

    Threadwinner already.

  11. Count felons as zero/anythings of a person.

    That’s the intent of marginalizing them to a lowest effective class: can’t get good jobs, can’t vote on issues that affect their own futures, can’t be allowed to defend themselves or their families, can have their punishment increased ex post facto, can be pilloried by “registration”, can’t develop clean financial credit…

    Why should they count at all demographically, if that’s how the government and the public wants to see them treated?

    Classing is the new American slavery. It is a disease of the soul.

  12. I don’t think you can separate the idea of “What should be a felony?” from “Should felons be allowed to vote?”, Max. The second question wouldn’t even be considered by most people if it were really limited to murderers, rapists, etc.

  13. The cotton industry took a hit when slavery ended, too.

    I plan to co-opt this line for the next time some asshole says we need to save the banking industry or the scamster/mortgage industry…

  14. Drugs are wonderful things. Think of what better citizens people are after taking them. All the happiness hey bring. The government should provide free heroin for all.

    What a wonderful world it would be if only we all had free drugs.

    I take it the author will now tell us why kiddie porn laws are outdated.

  15. “For those felonies which *ought* to be felonies – murder, rape, burglary, torture, slave trafficking, etc – what is the basis of letting folks convicted of such activities vote?”

    I think you have it backwards. The default position, if we are to imagine we are democratic, needs to be that every adult person can vote. What is the basis of denying anyone the vote? They may have done bad things, but they are still citizens.

  16. Right, Curious George, sensible drug policy equals free heroin for all. And forcing children to have sex and then distributing videos of it is the same thing as allowing people to voluntarily abuse themselves with chemicals. Ass.

  17. I think you have it backwards. The default position, if we are to imagine we are democratic, needs to be that every adult person can vote. What is the basis of denying anyone the vote? They may have done bad things, but they are still citizens.

    We’re not a democracy, we’re a democratic republic. Why should people who show they do not care about the agreed upon laws of the republic get a say in how the republic is run?

  18. “Why should people who show they do not care about the agreed upon laws of the republic get a say in how the republic is run?”

    Because electing representatives is the way the laws are “agreed upon”. Everyone deserves a chance to contribute to that. Eliminating people who don’t care or don’t agree with the laws only provides political incentive to create a fucked up situation like we have now where lots of people are disenfranchised for bad reasons. There is never going to be a large enough rapist and murderer constituency to change the way the government is run.

  19. Why should people who show they do not care about the agreed upon laws of the republic get a say in how the republic is run?

    Actually, at best, all that being a felon actually indicates is that you disagree on the application of one and/or a small set of laws. Not necessarily the law as a coherent edifice. And sure enough, felons can have legitimate legal concerns to the extent that they consider certain portions of the system to be legitimate.

    A minor tweaking of your argument would deny *Libertarians* and *Anarchists* the vote, on the similar basis that they “do not care about the agreed upon laws of the republic”.

    The other, far less rational fear, is that if felons get the vote they might be able to legislate their felony into law, making it no longer illegal. This is easily shut down by simply pointing out that convicts of these [things we actually think should be felonies] is an incredibly tiny population in comparison to the set of people who disagree with them.

  20. “For those felonies which *ought* to be felonies – murder, rape, burglary, torture, slave trafficking, etc – what is the basis of letting folks convicted of such activities vote?”

    To the extent that these people pay taxes and live under the laws of the state, then I would argue that the whole idea of consent of governed and taxation without representation would argue for letting them, well, grant their consent and being represented, i.e., voting.

    Besides, the disenfranchisement laws are silly in their application: why should a convicted burglar and murderer get the SAME punishment (in some states felons are disenfranchised for life unless pardoned, regardless of what the felony is). How does that make any sense?

  21. Civil death makes a lot more sense if being convicted of a felony equals actual death, as it used to when felonies were capital offenses. But very few felonies are capital offenses anymore. But to have millions of people post sentence working in our society, paying taxes, being effected by the actions of elected officials, it seems daft not to let them have a say in all of that because of what could be a singular event in their past.

  22. At the very least is strikes me as more honest and sensible to not count the felons for representation purposes when they cannot vote.

  23. Most states let felons back on the voting rolls at some point after they’ve completed their sentences. Some states are more strict.

    If a felon really wants to vote, there are many states (s)he can move to.

  24. “If a felon really wants to vote, there are many states (s)he can move to.”

    They should have to move to participate in the government they pay taxes to and whom they are counted as during enumeration for the constituting of representation? That’s goofy.

    I mean, you could say that about any state level law that is unfair.

  25. To the extent that these people pay taxes and live under the laws of the state, then I would argue that the whole idea of consent of governed and taxation without representation would argue for letting them, well, grant their consent and being represented, i.e., voting.

    So why do people who don’t pay any taxes (net of the transfer payments they receive in the form of welfare and EITC) get to vote?

  26. Why couldn’t a deal have been made to enact mandatory prison for other offenses so as to keep about the same total numbers of downstaters in jails upstate? Oh, I get it…it’s because the Democrats and/or downstaters don’t care about drug law reform per se, just about screwing Republicans and/or upstaters out of support.

  27. We should deny Catholics the vote. After all, they are loyal to the monarch of a foreign theocratic state.

  28. I mean, you could say that about any state level law that is unfair.

    Yes, you can. And?

  29. “Yes, you can. And?”

    So no more complaining about eminent domain. You can just move to a state that doesn’t do that. Or drug laws. Just move to the states that have decriminalized small amounts. Or trans fats bans. Etc., etc.,

    Saying in response to an injustice “well, you could always move.” I mean, then don’t ever complain about the US government, cuz you could always move to another nation.

    Stupider than usual RC.

  30. MNG, I was trying to draw you out a little on whether you think there is any value at all in allowing the states to do things differently.

    Apparently, you do not.

    Good to know.

  31. RC
    Of course they can do things differently, but they cannot violate certain basic fundamental rights in doing so. Voting is pretty high up there. As Locke said to make rules for someone without their consent is to make that person your slave. That kind of thing we don’t leave up to the states and tell the victims of it “hey, move if you don’t like it.”

    Do you think we should have dealt with slavery by letting each state decide?

  32. I wonder who has a profitable drug sideline going?

  33. Zeb your moral compass is showing.

    So tell us again about the virtues of drug use and how it has made you a better human being, if we can all use that term very loosely.

  34. Zeb:

    I found your view that murderers and rapists deserve the vote to be a viewpoint that was very interesting. So you view ordinary, hardworking, taxpayers as the same as murderers and rapists. This does square with your drug views.

    Good to see drugs have ruined the consistency of your last brain cell.

  35. Victory belongs to the most persevering.The stupid speak of the past, the wise of the present, and fools of the future.

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