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election 2002
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Do you think the next Governor should work to repeal the Rockefeller Drug Laws?

The so-called Rockefeller Drug Laws were enacted in 1973 when Nelson Rockefeller, then the governor, sought to deal with the rise of drug use. They require harsh prison terms for the possession or sale of relatively small amounts of drugs. The harshest provision mandates that a judge impose a prison term of no less than 15 years to life for anyone convicted of selling 2 ounces or possessing 4 ounces of a narcotic substance. The penalties apply without regard to the circumstances of the offense or the individual's character or background, making it irrelevant whether the person is a first time or repeat offender. In recent years both Republicans and Democrats in state government have talked about reforming the drug laws.

Read an Albany Times Union special report on this issue.

Visit the Web sites of two organizations that advocate reforming these laws,, and the William Moses Kunstler Fund for Racial Justice. You can also read on the Web a defense of the laws as they stands put together by the New York State District Attorney's Office.

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the candidates respond
"These are the most discriminatory, harshest drug laws in the country. It's also very expensive... so they have to be changed." Photo of Carl McCall
H. Carl McCall (D)

"The punishment does not fit the crime... The mandatory punishments should be eliminated in order to give the judges more discretion." Photo of Tom Golisano
Tom Golisano (I)

"I am proud of the fact that I am the first Governor who has ever proposed real reforms of these laws, but I will not be satisfied until we get the job done."
(5/8/2002)... (more)
Photo of Tom Golisano
George Pataki (R)

the experts respond
"It's the District Attorneys who prevent the reform... and [they] rightly say that it's the Rockefeller Drug Laws that allow us to get plea bargains." Photo of Fred Siegel
Fred Siegel
Historian and Political Analyst

"As the laws now stand, you can have two ounces, or as much as all of the drugs that could fill Madison Square Garden... [and it] carries the same sentence." Photo of Activist Jan Warren
Jan Warren
Mothers of the NY Disappeared
Thirteen WNET New York