The Rockefeller Drug Laws: America's War on Drugs: a War We Are C...

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The Rockefeller Drug Laws: America's War on Drugs: a War We Are Causing, a War We Can Solve

By | May 2008
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Since the Rockefeller Drug Laws were passed in 1973 under Governor Nelson Rockefeller, New York State has had the harshest sentencing for low-level, non-violent drug offenders of any other state in the nation. Under these laws, those convicted of drug offenses face the same penalties as those convicted of murder, and harsher penalties that those convicted of rape. (Sullum, 1) Though the laws were first enacted to curb the late-1960s-early-1970s psychedelic drug epidemic, New York's drug problem in fact worsened in the 1980s with the use of stimulants, and thus the laws were reformed to be less lenient. These unforgiving laws, which place enormous minimum sentences for drug-sale convictions, prove to be ineffective and expensive and have been criticized as being unfair and unnecessary. The laws have since been reformed under New York Governor George Pataki in 2004, but the changes made were negligible and leave many of the Rockefeller laws' most severe features untouched. Perhaps the reason why the laws have not been further rectified is because they are associated explicitly with New York. If the public only knew how influential these laws are, how they marked change throughout the nation, then there would be more urgency to revoke, to make right our nation’s varying drug laws, and to create one, cohesive protocol by which each state will abide by. This nation needs to explore the major flaws of the Rockefeller Laws, the ineffectiveness of the "reformed" laws and needs to act on the call for alternative sentencing for drug offenders.

New York State has lived for more than thirty years now with the unfair Rockefeller Laws. These racist laws have targeted women and minorities such as Hispanics and blacks. There is no question the Rockefeller Laws are racially biased. "Studies show that the majority of the persons who use and sell drugs in New York State and across the country are white. Yet African Americans and Latinos comprise 91% of drug...