State Moves Toward Lighter Sentences for Potheads

The state Assembly has struck a blow for the state's stoners by voting to repeal the Rockefeller drug laws that have threatened so many tokers with the wrong kind of joint.

"This new drug policy will be founded on the premise that drug addiction is a public health crisis and that drug treatment works," said Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver during a press conference on Wednesday, reported the New York Daily News

By a 96-46 margin, the Democratically-controlled house has called for the repeal of the Rockefeller Drug Laws, enacted more than 30 years ago, that have meant harsh sentences for minor crimes such as simple possession of marijuana. Since 1973, judges have needed the prosecution's consent before sending certain convicts to rehab in lieu of prison.

The bill has already moved to the state Senate, where Dems have vowed quick action. But before anything can be accomplished, the new legislation will have to be reconciled with Gov. David Paterson's own proposal to address the state's drug laws.

Paterson, who was once arrested during a protest of the Rockefeller drug laws, has said he "can’t think of a criminal justice strategy that has been more unsuccessful."

While the fight may not yet be over, it appears the will exists in Albany to get it done.

"I don’t think we have a consensus right now," Eric T. Schneiderman of Manhattan, the lead sponsor of the legislation in the Senate, told The New York Times. "But I think we have a better sense of the questions we need to answer going forward."

 Not everyone is pleased.

"We've achieved a balance where we’ve preserved public safety and reduced our prison population,” Michael C. Green, the district attorney of Monroe County, told the Times. "I look at that and say, 'Why do we want to take this system and make a seismic shift?' My fear is that you’re going to disturb one of those trends."

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