N.Y. Governor, Lawmakers Agree To Soften Drug Laws

N.Y. Governor, Lawmakers Agree To Soften Drug Laws
Posted by CN Staff on March 27, 2009 at 17:29:59 PT
By Keith B. Richburg, Washington Post Staff Writer
Source: Washington Post
New York -- Gov. David A. Paterson (D) and legislative leaders on Friday announced an agreement to roll back the state's strict, 36-year-old drug laws, including eliminating tough mandatory minimum sentences for first-time, nonviolent drug offenders.The "Rockefeller Drug Laws," named after former governor Nelson Rockefeller (R), are among the strictest in the country and for critics have become a symbol of the failure of the "war on drugs," which locked up large numbers of nonviolent drug offenders while having little apparent effect on drug use.
The agreement, announced in the state capitol, follows a national shift away from criminal penalties to public health and treatment in America's decades-old fight against illegal drug use."There's a broader trend picking up steam around the country to roll back the drug war," said Ethan Nadelmann, executive director of the Drug Policy Alliance, an advocacy group for alternative drug laws. Mandatory sentences, that led to burgeoning prison populations and a spurt of building of new prisons, he said, "happened as a result of the drug war hysteria."The shift began in the late 1990s as more than a dozen states legalized marijuana for medical purposes, and California voters in 2000 passed a ballot initiative that allowed people convicted of simple drug possession to be sent to treatment instead of jail.Last year, Massachusetts became the first state in which voters chose to make possession of an ounce or less of marijuana a civil infraction, the equivalent of a parking ticket.The changes in New York, which must be finalized by votes in the State Assembly and Senate, would repeal most mandatory minimum sentences for first-time, nonviolent drug offenders and give judges broader discretion over sentencing.The state plans to use money from the recently enacted federal stimulus package to expand treatment programs. And the changes would allow some among a group of 1,500 prisoners to apply for release, if they are nonviolent and have not been convicted of other crimes.The changes were strongly opposed by state prosecutors and district attorneys, who argued that they needed mandatory sentences as a tool to get offenders to plead guilty to lesser crimes.The move in New York has been driven by new political as well as economic dynamics.On the political side, the shift came last year, first when Paterson was elevated to the governorship after Eliot L. Spitzer (D) resigned amid scandal. Paterson had been a longtime advocate of repealing the laws. In 2002, when he was a state senator, he was arrested at a demonstration against the laws outside the office of then-Gov. George E. Pataki (R).Then in November, Democrats captured the state senate for the first time in years. The state assembly in the past had proposed repealing the drug laws, but the effort was always blocked by senate Republicans, many of whom represent largely rural, Upstate districts where most of the state's prisons are located.On the economic side, New York, like most states, is grappling with a huge budget deficit and a deteriorating financial picture, and years of research and experience has shown that it costs far less to give a nonviolent drug offender treatment than to keep him locked in prison.As a cost-saving move, Paterson has proposed closing four minimum-security prisons as the prison population has declined, and repealing the Rockefeller drug laws is likely to lead to even fewer inmates.Advocates for changes in drug law called Friday's announcement the culmination of years of work, including lobbying and public demonstrations. "We've been waiting 36 years for this," said Gabriel Sayegh of the Drug Policy Alliance, who was in Albany for the announcement.For some, the change comes late.Anthony Papa was 26 years old in 1985 when he tried to make $500 by carrying an envelope with 4 1/2 ounces of cocaine. He was caught in a sting operation and recalls the judge at his trial telling him that he should get probation because it was his first offense. But the judge was bound by the Rockefeller drug laws and sentenced Papa to 15 years in prison."The judge said he was handcuffed because of the law," Papa said in a telephone interview. Papa, who became an artist and advocate for changes in drug laws, was released early in 1997 by Pataki after 12 years in Sing-Sing prison."I never saw a kingpin in prison -- mostly nonviolent first-time offenders," Papa said. "This is why this legislation today is a good bill -- it leans more on treatment than incarceration."He added: "It's amazing to think about all those years I fought for change, and we have meaningful reform today."Source: Washington Post (DC)Author:   Keith B. Richburg, Washington Post Staff WriterPublished: Saturday, March 28, 2009; A02Copyright: 2009 Washington Post Contact: letters URL: CannabisNews Justice Archives
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Comment #17 posted by FoM on March 28, 2009 at 13:56:45 PT
I thought Montel handled Baldwin very well. Montel agreed with him on some of his concerns and that appeared to put Baldwin in a better more open frame of mind since he said he likes Montel. 
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Comment #16 posted by The GCW on March 28, 2009 at 13:29:46 PT
George Servantes, 
Not only, "God created cannabis"God told Us it's good &Tells Us on the very 1st page of the Bible.That's no accident.There's a lot more to be said about this inter-related issue.We're told to "love one another" and in so doing, We receive the "spirit of truth."You can not love someone and at the same time cage or support caging them for using what the Ecologician says He created and is good on the 1st page.To cage or suppport caging humans for using the plant, eliminates people from receiving that "spirit of truth."-0-There is so much more to be said.Pray to know the truth as He wishes for Us to know it - love one another - and The Ecologcian tells Us that "spirit of truth" will teach Us all things.-0-A "so called born again christian" who enables caging humans for using cannabis is lost. The guy is stumbling.When We have the oppertunity, We need to help them.We must help save them.They are Our family members who have strayed.Many times it is clergy who has separated them from the "spirit of truth." That's why cannabis prohibition is also Biblically known as the "Sin of the Priests"-see Malachi 1:6-14 as it is subtitled in the NASB. -0-Strayed?YES.1 Timothy 4:1-5 tells Us the only Biblical restriction to using cannabis is to use it with thankfulness. That area also seems to predict cannabis prohibition in advance and it tells Us who will be the culprits.Those who "fall away from the faith"'s the NASB where the subtitle is "Apostasy" which is the future told.There is so much.The Green Collar Worker
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Comment #15 posted by Hope on March 28, 2009 at 12:45:32 PT
He's very afraid. He's one of those people that had a bad experience and he jumps to the conclusion that everyone will have his bad experience. He's wrong. It's easy for people with his experience to assume that. I mean if one person is very allergic to antibiotics than everyone is or should be. Right?Baldwin said, "But I am just worried -- I am more concerned for the future and the youth of America. And this drug, which is a very dangerous drug -- it's not a casual thing. It's very dangerous -- is negatively effecting our youth."I really believe that with legalization, fewer underage people will habitually use than do now. I believe fewer will even try it than they do now. I believe they will be so much safer with legalization. A safer and better future for our youth is what is probably the most important thing about ending this prohibition. A future where the government won't kill you or assault you or break into your home over suspicions about a plant or a drug. I believe that our youth, my children, their children, and their children, will have a safer and better future when prohibition, as we know it, is ended. I dearly want to protect the children, the young people, and all the people from the genuine horrors and pitfalls of prohibition. I don't want to leave them this heinous societal meat grinder that our "Justice" system has become.Pot, itself, won't kill them or put them in prison and jail. Prohibition will. There's great injustice in the prohibition of cannabis. Great injustice and bad things and I do not want to leave that bad, truly dangerous thing as a legacy to my offspring's future.
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Comment #14 posted by George Servantes on March 28, 2009 at 11:29:29 PT
Baldwin so called born again christian forgets that God created cannabis so now Baldwin is actually fighting against God. How ironic mr. Baldwin.
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Comment #13 posted by FoM on March 28, 2009 at 08:09:19 PT
Just a Note
We aren't allowed to post complete articles or transcripts from CNN and I had to cut out some to make it fit in a comment. I have a link at the bottom of the complete transcript.
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Comment #12 posted by FoM on March 28, 2009 at 08:07:07 PT
Partial Transcript: Larry King Live
March 27, 2009We've got more here. We'll check back on the situation in Fargo in 60 seconds. And then, don't forget, Stephen Baldwin and Montel Williams go at it about marijuana use. Don't go away.(COMMERCIAL BREAK)(NEWS BREAK)(COMMERCIAL BREAK)(NEWS BREAK)SMILEY: The debate over medical marijuana is an emotional one. With us tonight, representing the pro-side of this conversation, Montel Williams, host of "Montel Across America," debuting April 6th on Air America. He has, as many of us know, MS, and has very strong feelings about those in pain being allowed to access and use the drug. He wrote the book "Living Well Emotionally."Stephen Baldwin, on the other side, so to speak, is an actor, talk radio host, and author. He opposes the legalization of marijuana. Montel, Stephen, glad to have you both on the program.(CROSS TALK)SMILEY: Montel, let me start with you. Very simply and very directly, why?MONTEL WILLIAMS, TALK SHOW HOST: You know, I want to make sure that we get this characterized exactly right. I have never been a proponent of legalizing marijuana. I have been a proponent of making sure that a doctor who is trained and a specialist who understands how to prescribe medication, if that doctor chooses to prescribe medication for his patient, and that patient happens to be me, and he can put me on a morphine drip and he also says, I also recommend this medication, then he should be able to do so. And the state should allow him to prescribe this, and I should be able to get it.But here's what's so odd about this, we talk about this topic, we don't ever talk about it from a place of truth. We always start with a lot of rumors and falsehoods. But the truth is, on May 10th of this year, the federal government celebrated the 30th anniversary of a program, Tavis, that was started under the first Bush administration, where the United States government has been dispensing marijuana every single month for 30 years to 25 people across the United States. Unfortunately, in the last five to six years, it's now down to five people because the other people have passed away.Our government grows it. It certifies it. It puts a USDA stamp on it. And every single month, our government sends that medication out to five people across the United States. You can check this yourself. As a matter of fact, it was called the Compassionate Investigational New Drug Program. It started 30 years ago May 10th. Every single month, through a program at the University of Mississippi, we the federal government and your taxpayer dollars goes to a program to grow marijuana and dispense it.Our country dispenses marijuana to patients who are ill. But, unfortunately, that program got cut off to just now five people. I ask you this question and I ask this of Stephen: I'm not trying to legalize marijuana, I'm just trying to say, here's a government that's supposed to do no harm, a government that's supposed to be compassionate to all its citizens; what right does this government have to say that we're going to give medication to five people and let them be pain free, and for all the rest of you, you go to hell, we're not going to help you, the program's closed? That's not appropriate in America today. SMILEY: I got a break in 30 seconds. I don't want to cut you off. I'll come right to you and let you respond to the question that Montel Williams poses. We'll take a break. I don't want to cut you off. We'll take a break and come back and I'll come right to you and let you respond to the question that Montel Williams' poses. Montel, thanks or doing my job on LARRY KING LIVE. We'll take a break and hear Stephen Baldwin's response in just a moment.(COMMERCIAL BREAK)SMILEY: It's the marijuana debate, featuring Montel Williams and Stephen Baldwin. We heard Montel's point of view before the break. Mr. Baldwin, the floor or the microphone is yours, sir.STEPHEN BALDWIN, ACTOR: Thank you very much, Tavis. It's great to be here. First of all, this isn't even a debate between Montel and I. We got crazy love for one another. I have a lot of respect for him as well.I can't speak for the government, Montel, but I do want to say this: it's obvious, America wants its marijuana. This is a fascinating topic now. But my question is, how do we control it? Obviously, there's a movement that's coming. It's beyond just the legalization of it medically, Montel. And that's the problem that I have.Let me finish -- please, like Jack Cafferty said earlier on this network, he's sober 20 years and he doesn't want his kids to do what he did, which is what all kids do, drink and smoke a joint. You have to understand, alcohol in this country can only profit the government in taxation, a maximum annually of 25 billion a year. But the negative cause and effect is over 150 billion. How are we going to prevent that if this ball starts rolling.WILLIAMS: Stephen, I will agree with you on all those premises. I've got to tell you something, your tax dollars have paid for 30 years for the United States government to dispense this drug through pharmacies around the country. They're already doing it. It's not like we have to invent something new. It's been done and controlled. No one's stolen one can in 30 years.BALDWIN: I don't know about all that.WILLIAMS: Also, 13 states in this country right now -- the state of California has medicinal marijuana centers across the state, where they have -- they give them licenses and they license people to do it. Here's part of the problem, Tavis, I've got to tell you. All you have to do is ask some smart people. And I believe I'm one of them. I will go down and show you how we can open up dispensaries, how the government can control this and contain it, because, look, I don't want it in the hands of my children either. Stephen, you just said it yourself.Look, if my daughter and your daughter are laying on gurney in a hospital right now and they're both ill, they're both hurting. And the federal government walks in and says Montel, here, your child can take this to feel better, I'm sorry, Stephen, the heck with your daughter, you would revolt. America should revolt now.SMILEY: Montel, it seems to me -- I'm not arguing a point, I'm just asking a question. It seems to me that if you take the government out of it -- and so many of us believe the government is too involved in our lives, in too many respects and aspects in the first place -- why control it request when government can just legalize it. Or put it another way, why not just decriminalize it?WILLIAMS: Here's the thing, there are people smarter minds than me that know the answer how we continue it even if we make it a commercial industry. I'm not against that. If that's what's going to help a doctor give me medication, I'm sorry, I've got to beg for things that make my life better. The bottom line is, right this minute, we have a two-tiered system for 30 years.It's not like this was yesterday. Ladies and gentlemen, you need to listen up and do the research yourself. For 30 years, our government sends out marijuana. Is this not an egregious offense, the same government that locks up a child or someone with a joint in their pocket, is actually a drug dealer. They are dispensing it every single month.SMILEY: What about that distinction between legalizing and decriminalizing? What about the latter?BALDWIN: I disagree with the latter as well. You're talking to a guy 20 years sober, Tavis, off of drugs and alcohol. I know the affects of marijuana firsthand. I can tell you right now, if this starts to become something that is more readily available to our youth, the ramifications and repercussions of that in the next 30 years will be beyond our comprehension.SMILEY: Do you buy the argument that marijuana leads to harder stuff?BALDWIN: That's a fact.(CROSS TALK)BALDWIN: Last time I was on the show with Ron Paul, you wouldn't believe the e-mails I got, people are going to kill me, shoot me, all kinds of stuff. America wants it's marijuana, man, I get it. But I am just worried -- I am more concerned for the future and the youth of America. And this drug, which is a very dangerous drug -- it's not a casual thing. It's very dangerous -- is negatively effecting our youth.MONTEL: Steve, let me just say, 30 seconds, right now, London, Canada, there's a product that's on the marketplace in London right now. It's called Sabotex (ph). It's made from marijuana. We have outlawed even the research around marijuana in America, unless the federal government themselves does it.Here's the problem, right now, why don't we have an honest discussion about this? If we need to take the government out of it, do so. We could approach the pharmaceutical industry. There's money being made overseas with products that are derivatives of marijuana. What I'm trying to say to you, please, don't throw out the baby with the bath water. There are some of us who need the medication and we should have a right to it.BALDWIN: Maybe you and I should get together and create some kind of conference about this.WILLIAMS: I am ready. Not only am I ready for a conference, I can show you how to do it.SMILEY: I'll show up and moderate it, how about that.BALDWIN: Do it.WILLIAMS: Love it, Tavis. Thank you.SMILEY: Steven, nice to have you on. Stephen Baldwin. Montel Williams, nice to have you on as well.WILLIAMS: Good to see you, Stephen, my friend.BALDWIN: God bless.SMILEY: Larry King back in his chair, as he should be, on Monday night. Larry, thanks for letting me sit in tonight. CNN continues it's coverage of the drug violence in Mexico. Time now for Anderson Cooper, on the border tonight with "AC 360" on the war next door. Complete Transcript:
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Comment #11 posted by The GCW on March 28, 2009 at 02:19:52 PT
I believe-
I believe a few years ago, right here, there was talk about how the dam was getting leaks and You never know which one was going to break down the wall.Remember those themes?Years have gone by.The wall is pretty shakey now.Let's poke at that damn wall with all We've got, it's got to go.The most ignorant of the people on planet earth is all that's holding up the wall now.It's got to go.-0-NOWCannabis prohibition is being compared to "prevent some citizens from voting, eating in the restaurants of their choice, drinking from public water fountains or sitting where they pleased on buses and trains." SCUM EXPOSED! IGNOIDSIt's about to go - It's got to go.Let's make it gone.The Green Collar Workerin conjunction with The Ecologician wants the wall gone.
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Comment #10 posted by FoM on March 27, 2009 at 20:22:28 PT
The Reason
I guess I don't understand war because I really don't believe violence solves anything. All wars have to end sometime so why even start one in the first place is my belief.
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Comment #9 posted by Hope on March 27, 2009 at 20:16:22 PT
The reason...
The Drug War recipe.The war mentality. The war rhetoric. War toys and "tools" for warriors. The war like attitude. The war like violence. The war like tactics. Posturing. Chest beating. War cries.Liberal portions of vitriol, threats, and suspicions. As much demonization as you can scrape up. Add humiliation and indignity in the form of requiring body fluids and hair and such, as well as humiliating arrests. Lots and lots of incarceration. Stir in hatred. Add fear and death in copious amounts. Dump in every form of corruption and skulduggery... in good measure.Top it all off with billions and billions of dollars of tax free, under the counter cash, and the willingness of a professionally and perpetually terrified citizenry to fork over endless truckloads of taxes from their labor to perpetuate it all.Brew and brew and brew. Maintain a steady boil over high heat. Keep adding more and more of the above ingredients. Keep stirring. Brew until it all blows up in everybody's face.Poisonous recipe from the very start. 
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Comment #8 posted by FoM on March 27, 2009 at 19:10:36 PT
It's tragic. I don't know why they are fighting as violently as they are. I really can't get my mind around it. It's like Iraq without suicide bombings.
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Comment #7 posted by Hope on March 27, 2009 at 19:07:05 PT
The fruit of the drug war tree...
is not good.The fruit of the drug war tree is death and destruction.
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Comment #6 posted by Hope on March 27, 2009 at 19:06:09 PT
It was good.
Watching Anderson Cooper.The fruit of the drug war tree.
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Comment #5 posted by FoM on March 27, 2009 at 19:00:15 PT
It Was Good
From Lynch to Montel and Baldwin. I liked it!
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Comment #4 posted by FoM on March 27, 2009 at 18:53:10 PT
He just hit it out of the park! Go Montel. 
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Comment #3 posted by Hope on March 27, 2009 at 18:45:45 PT
Charles Lynch
was just on Larry King.Waiting for the Williams/Baldwin debate.Oh my gosh. Baldwin's already acting goofy.I'm sort of expecting to see somebody mop up the floor, verbally, with somebody else.
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Comment #2 posted by FoM on March 27, 2009 at 17:50:08 PT
Webb Takes on Next Challenge
Webb Takes on Next Challenge: Nation's Prison SystemMarch 26, 2009Washington -- Alarmed by prisons that are clogged with mentally ill people, drug users and other non-violent offenders while well-armed gangs and drug lords often go unpunished, Virginia Sen. Jim Webb will launch a wide-ranging and politically risky campaign today to overhaul the nation's criminal justice system.With nearly 2.4 million Americans now behind bars, Webb said, "our incarceration rate has exploded.... But at the same time we aren't really solving the problems."With backing from senior Democratic senators and quiet encouragement from President Barack Obama, Webb will introduce legislation to create a bipartisan commission on criminal justice reform.URL:
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Comment #1 posted by FoM on March 27, 2009 at 17:30:51 PT
Thank You Governor Paterson
It's been a long time coming.
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