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):