Drug Policy

Rockefeller Drug Laws Closer to Gone

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New York Gov. David Paterson and state legislative leaders have reached agreement on legislation that will eliminate most of the remaining mandatory sentences required by the Rockefeller-era drug laws. Under the legislation, judges rather than prosecutors will have discretion to send first- and second-time drug offenders to treatment instead of prison. Other details:

The agreement eliminates mandatory State prison sentences for first-time class B felony drug offenders and second-time non-violent class C, D and E drug offenders, making them eligible for a term of probation that could also include drug treatment, or a local jail sentence.

The agreement permits class B drug felons who meet eligibility criteria and who are currently serving Rockefeller Drug Law sentences to enter the six-month "shock incarceration" program when they are within three years of release. If successful, they would be entitled to early release from prison….

The agreement also requires the Board of Parole to consider current, lower sentencing ranges when deciding whether to release a class B drug offender to parole supervision.

Third, the agreement ensures that offenders who are not addicted, but who profit from the addictions of others, are appropriately sentenced to State prison.

The agreement also increases penalties for adults who sell drugs to children.

A Class B felony is the most common charge under the Rockefeller drug laws, triggering a minimum sentence of one to three years. It applies to possessing between one-eighth of an ounce and two ounces of cocaine or heroin, or possessing any amount with an intent to sell it.

This legislation is not all good, especially the part where nonaddicts who sell drugs automatically go to prison, but on the whole it's a big improvement. Although I have strong reservations about the medicalization of drug policy exemplified by replacing prison with "treatment," there's no question that most drug offenders would prefer the latter option, even when it's a charade.

I noted the latest round of Rockefeller drug law reform a few weeks ago.

[Thanks to Eric Jon Magnuson for the tip.]

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  1. This is about the lamest effort to decriminalize marijuana in any state. Baby steps where long jumps are clearly called for.

  2. This is about the lamest effort to decriminalize marijuana in any state. Baby steps where long jumps are clearly called for.

    This isn’t a decriminalization effort.

    It’s trying to bring sanity to the drug laws.

    That’s a rather stark difference. Enforcement will remain unchanged, it’s merely that they are giving judges more discretion and removing mandatory minimums.

    It’s an overall positive move, but it should not be construed as decriminalization

  3. “Under the legislation, judges rather than prosecutors will have discretion to send first- and second-time drug offenders to treatment instead of prison.”

    Drug treatment for weed???

    That’ stupid.

  4. “It applies to possessing between one-eighth of an ounce and two ounces of cocaine or heroin”

    2 joints = 2 oz. of coke or smack? WTF???

  5. Widow,
    It’s obviously a legitimate correlation. Smoking those two joints would require that you eat WAY too much stuff with trans-fats in it. According to the enlightened ones in NY, that would do just about as much harm as your 2 oz. of the hard stuff.

    You need to start thinking like them to understand them. And let me tell ya…it’s terrifying in here…

  6. The agreement eliminates mandatory State prison sentences for first-time class B felony drug offenders and second-time non-violent class C, D and E drug offenders, making them eligible for a term of probation that could also include drug treatment, or a local jail sentence.

    Of course it still leaves them with a felony drug record, which totally screws them for the rest of their life.

  7. 15 grams of heroin, an ounce of speed/ 15 years to life/Rockefeller, Rockefeller, that’s a real long time

  8. Judging by the comments above and reporting elsewhere, it looks like a lot of people are confused about this measure. It’s not about marijuana.

  9. ‘Judging by the comments above and reporting elsewhere, it looks like a lot of people are confused about this measure. It’s not about marijuana.’

    They knew that, but they forgot.

  10. Even Governor Patterson can see the problems with the Rockefeller drug laws.

  11. Looks like the broken clock adage applies to Paterson in this case.

  12. Stop confusing the issue. This is in definite reference to smack.
    nothing to do with weed, unless mandatory minimums have all been rescinded.

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