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New York Gov. Slams Harsh Drug Laws, Calls for Reform

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New York Gov. David Paterson harshly criticized his state’s Rockefeller-era drug laws and called for reforming sentences for drug possession, the Albany Times-Union reported Jan. 9.

“I cannot think of a criminal-justice strategy that has been more unsuccessful than the Rockefeller drug laws,” Paterson said.

Paterson’s support, combined with Democratic control of the state Senate, could lead to further action on drug-law reform that began during the administration of former Gov. George Pataki.

However, while some Democratic legislative leaders said that reform is among their top priorities, a spokesperson for Senate Majority Leader Malcolm Smith would not say how soon the issue would be addressed. Democrats hold a slim majority in the Senate and may be fearful that Republicans could use drug-law reform against them. Some observers say that the worsening economy could make it harder to pass laws that can be perceived as being soft on crime.

A Paterson spokesperson said the governor is waiting for a report from the state’s Commission on Sentencing Reform before proposing any legislation.

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