Leading the Way: Toward a Public Health & Safety Approach to Drug Policy in New York

Buffalo, NY

The Baldy Center for Law & Social Policy and the Drug Policy Alliance invite you to participate in a conference about establishing more effective approaches to drug policy in New York.

Forty years ago, on May 7, 1973, then-Governor Nelson Rockefeller signed legislation establishing a new drug policy in New York: the Rockefeller Drug Laws. The laws represented a criminalization-focused approach to drug policy, with long, mandated prison terms for even first-time drug law violations. Other states soon followed New York, thus beginning America’s unprecedented race to incarcerate. But the laws never achieved their stated intent. Instead, drugs remained a challenging reality in communities across New York, mass incarceration became standard practice in cities across the state, health outcomes were not substantially improved, and extraordinary racial discrimination became a hallmark of the criminalization-focused approach.  The draconian Rockefeller Drug Laws became notorious around the country and around the world as an example of the failed “war on drugs.”

After decades of advocacy by community groups, service providers and elected officials, the laws were finally overhauled in 2009. But while advocates called for a new approach to drug policy – a coordinated approach that prioritized public health and safety – much more needs to be done to change New York’s overall approach. Today, New York’s drug policies remain fragmented, disconnected and often contradictory.

In examining New York’s drug policies, the conference will engage with an upcoming report by DPA and The New York Academy of Medicine: Blueprint for a Public Health Safety Approach to Drug Policy.  Drawing from disciplines such as public health, drug treatment, harm reduction, medicine, public safety, law, sociology and criminal justice, the conference will convene key political leaders, government officials, community organizations, leading academics, service providers, advocates and people directly impacted by the range of drug policies in New York State.

Thursday, May 2:  6 p.m. – 9 p.m.
Screening of the award-winning documentary, The House I Live In,
followed by a panel Discussion with special guests

Location: Downtown Buffalo
Marquis de Lafayette, 391 Washington Street, Buffalo

Friday, May 3: 8:30 a.m. – 5 p.m.
Panels and Plenary discussions

Location: University at Buffalo --  Ramada Hotel and Conference Center
2402 North Forest Road (Getzville)

View the conference agenda.

Conference Objectives:

  • Assess the current approach to drug policy in New York.
  • Examine the current national landscape and emerging developments in drug policy, criminal justice, and health, including the growing bipartisan opposition to mass incarceration and support for alternatives to incarceration; the implementation of the Affordable Care Act; and the 2012 elections, wherein citizens in Colorado and Washington voted to end marijuana prohibition in those states.
  • Consider the effectiveness of approaches to drug policy in other cities, states and countries.
  • Discuss evidence-based strategies for building a coordinated, health-focused approach to drug policy in New York that addresses prevention, treatment, harm, reduction, and public safety, and reduces racial disparities.
  • Foster connections among groups and sectors that have not traditionally worked together.
  • Outline action steps to realize a new approach so that New York can lead the nation in implementing more effective drug policies.

Conference Co-Hosts
The Baldy Center for Law & Social Policy, University at Buffalo, SUNY   
Drug Policy Alliance

Conference Sponsors (List in Formation)
School of Public Health and Health Professions, University at Buffalo, SUNY
Civic Engagement and Public Policy Research Initiative, University at Buffalo, SUNY
Department of Sociology, University at Buffalo, SUNY
Research Institute on Addictions, University at Buffalo, SUNY
SUNY Buffalo Law School
VOCAL-NY (NYC, Westchester, Albany)
Western New York Peace Center

Conference Partners (List in Formation)
A Better Way Foundation (Hartford, CT)
After Hours Project (NYC)
Agape Fellowship Baptist church (Buffalo)
AIDS Care (Rochester)
Antiracist Alliance (NYC, Westchester)
Bronx Clergy Criminal Justice Roundtable, Inc.
Bronx Defenders
Brooklyn Defender Services
Center for Community Alternatives (Syracuse and NYC)
Center for Law & Justice (Albany)
Center for NuLeadership on Urban Solutions (NYC)
CitiWide Harm Reduction (Bronx)
Citizen Action New York (Syracuse)
Coalition for Economic Justice (Buffalo / statewide)
Columbia University School of Social Work
Community Action Organization of Erie County – CAO (Buffalo)
Community Health Action of Staten Island
Community Health Worker Network of Buffalo
Correctional Association of New York (statewide)
Council on Addiction Recovery Services, Inc. (Olean)
Delaine-Waring African Methodist Episcopal Church (Buffalo)
Department of Public Health & the Addiction Studies Program in the Falk College at Syracuse University
Diesel House (Syracuse)
Evergreen Health Services (Western NY)
Exponents (NYC)
Faith Mission Crisis Center (Queens)
Formerly Incarcerated and Convicted Peoples Movement – FICPM (National)
Fortune Society (NYC)
HAMS: Harm Reduction for Alcohol (National)
Harlem United Community AIDS Center, Inc
Horizon Health Services (Buffalo)
Horizon Village, Inc. (Buffalo)
Housing Works (NYC)
Human Services Council of New York (statewide)
Huther Doyle (Rochester)
Incarceration Initiative, Mailman School of Public Health, Columbia University
In Our Name (statewide)
International Doctors for Healthy Drug Policies
IT Could Happen To You (statewide)
[email protected]
Law Enforcement Against Prohibition – LEAP (national)
Legal Action Center (national)
Long Island Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence - LICADD (Nassau and Suffolk Counties)
Long Island Minority AIDS Coalition
Lower East Side Harm Reduction Center (NYC)
Milk Not Jails
The Mocha Center, Inc. (Rochester, Buffalo)
NAACP (Yonkers)
NAACP (Syracuse)
National Action Network (Buffalo)
The New York Academy of Medicine
New York Association of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Providers – ASAP (statewide)
New York Civil Liberties Union Western Regional Office (Buffalo)
New York Harm Reduction Educators (NYC)
P.A.P.A.II - People Assisting Positive Actions (Harlem and Queens)
Partnership for the Public Good (Buffalo)
Prison Action Network (statewide)
Prisoners Are People Too (Buffalo)
PUSH Buffalo
Samaritan Hospital Cancer Treatment Center (Troy)
Save the Michaels of the World (Buffalo)
Second Baptist Church of Lackawanna
Social Network Research Group of John Jay College, CUNY
Southern Tier AIDS Program
St. Anne’s Corner of Harm Reduction (NYC)
Urban League of Westchester
Washington Heights CORNER Project (NYC)
Women on the Rise Telling HerStory – WORTH (NYC)

For more information, including sponsorship and partnership opportunities, please contact:

Julie Netherland
Drug Policy Alliance

(212) 613-8063 | [email protected]

Dr. Robert Granfield
Dept. of Sociology, University of Buffalo

(716) 645-8453 | [email protected]