Rockefeller Drug Law “Reform” Protects Drug Dealers

March 11, 2009

Last week, the Assembly Majority passed drug law reform which paves the way to release and lessen sentences for convicted drug dealers. This bill was passed without one public hearing or open negotiation with the Assembly or Senate Minority. The Assembly Majority took this opportunity to slip this legislation under the radar of budget negotiations instead of taking the time to advance budget negotiations, which is the business New Yorkers want to see being accomplished in Albany during these hard times. We should not be addressing this issue at a time when people are concerned about losing their homes and jobs.

This bill not only eases tough and effective drug laws, but endangers the many neighborhoods and streets that are looking to eliminate drug violators and drug dealers. As a member of the Minority Conference that opposed this bill, I firmly disagree with the direction the Assembly Majority took on this so-called “reform” of the Rockefeller Drug Laws.

The bottom line of this bill is quite simple in my view: we should not be protecting and relaxing laws on drug dealers who knowingly break the law. This bill cuts breaks for drug addicts and heavy drug dealers alike, so to them it is a pretty good deal. For the everyday citizen that wants to protect their children and families from drug-related violence in their neighborhood, this seems like a bad idea.

Under this bill, anyone who is arrested on drug possession or selling could claim drug addiction and immediately bypass automatic sentencing in state prison and be eligible for probation and rehab treatment. Individuals who were already convicted of possession charges could have their case dismissed and records sealed, preventing any employer from knowing who they are hiring.

Another part of this bill makes it more difficult for prosecuting lawyers to make their case against drug dealers, citing specific monetary guidelines that would qualify them as “major drug traffickers.” As many of you may know, this process is already difficult to prove, so placing a specific number on a profit margin is nearly impossible. This bill raises the limit of possession before you could be charged with a more serious felony.

Basically, someone carrying $40-$50,000 worth of material has the ability of being charged with a lesser crime; people caught with this amount are clearly trying to sell the product because it is way too much for personal use. With that, these individuals are given the opportunity for the same revolving door as people clearly suffering from addiction. This would make it easier for the drug dealer to be processed and moved back out onto the street to continue the business they were originally arrested for. I certainly support getting addicts the treatment that they need, but I also support putting dealers behind bars for their crimes and not making it easier for them to use the system to be put back on the street.

This bill also undermines public protection. It limits the power and authority of our law enforcement officers who protect our communities. We are taking the casual seller and making it easier for them to continue their addiction or normal course of business operations. Essentially, we are saying “yes” to drugs and legalizing the possession of drugs – everything that we have feared and tried to prevent from the beginning is close to becoming reality.

I would strongly urge Governor Paterson and the Senate to oppose the advance of this legislation and make it certain that our children, families and communities will continue to remain safe. Drug dealers belong in prison and should not have the privilege of early release to continue their criminal activities on our streets and endanger the lives of New Yorkers.