Advocates Celebrate: New York Embarks on New Direction, Developing a Public Health and Safety Approach to Drugs

Press Release April 22, 2009
Media Contact

Tony Newman at (646) 335 - 5384 or gabriel sayegh at (646) 335 - 2264

New York- Earlier this month, Gov. David Paterson signed historic reforms to the draconian Rockefeller Drug Laws, just days after the Assembly and Senate passed the same reforms. The bill enacts broad modifications to the long-failed Rockefeller Drug Laws, including restoring judicial discretion in most drug cases, expanding alternatives to incarceration, and investing millions in treatment. Advocates worked for years to secure such reforms.

The ceremony will take place in Corona, Queens, at the Elmcor Community Center. Corona is the district of longtime reform champion, Assemblyman Jeffrion Aubry, who at the community center was a drug treatment counselor years ago. Gov. Paterson and Assm. Aubry will be joined by other members of the legislature.

What: Gov. Paterson Signing Legislation Reforming the Rockefeller Drug Laws
When: Friday, April 24, 2009. 10:00 a.m.
Where: Elmcor Youth and Adult Activities, Inc. 3316 108th Street, NY 11368 (Near the 7 train and Q48 or Q66 bus lines)

“After nearly 36 years of ineffective mandatory minimums, mass incarceration, institutional racism and billions in wasted taxpayer dollars, these critical reforms are long overdue and essential for making a better New York,” said Gabriel Sayegh, project director with the Drug Policy Alliance. “Gov. Paterson has helped to move our state in new direction on drug policy, one based on public health and safety, in fairness and justice. This shows what is possible when people come together and work for change.”

While advocates applaud the changes to the law, they also pointout that reforms should have gone even farther. For instance, some mandatory minimum sentences for drug offenses still remain intact, and harsh penalties for low-level drug offenses remain on the books.

“After many years of fighting these laws from behind bars and as a free man, I am grateful that we have finally achieved meaningful reform” said Anthony Papa, communications specialist for the Drug Policy Alliance who once spent 12 years in prison under the Rockefeller Drug Laws. “Now, it’s time to embrace the changes and set free those who have been imprisoned under harsh and unjust mandatory sentencing, allowing those who are eligible for judicial relief to be reunited with their families and start productive lives as citizens of New York.”

Details of the new law include:


A young woman holds a sign that says "End the Drug War."

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