Efforts to Reform N.Y. Drug Laws Stall Again

Talks have broken down between New York’s legislative leaders in the effort to reform the state’s Rockefeller-era drug laws, the New York Times reported June 8.

A conference committee formed by the Democratic-controlled Assembly and the Republican-controlled Senate appeared to be making progress on reform. However, the latest meeting ended with no general agreement formed and no plans to meet again.

Although Democrats said the committee was close to an agreement, Republicans contend that the Democrats were being inflexible. Two Republican Senate officials said there are no plans to reconvene the committee and that the Senate may pass its own bill in the upcoming weeks.

New York’s drug laws mandate long sentences for minor crimes and provide judges with no discretion to sidestep the law.

The Senate was looking to reduce sentences for individuals convicted of more serious drug charges, while the Assembly was promoting shorter sentences for lower-level offenders and providing judges with the option to send offenders to treatment rather than prison.

Assemblyman Jeffrion Aubry (D-Queens), co-chairman of the conference committee, urged Senate committee members to keep the negotiations going.

“This process is so vital and important, so it doesn’t go back to three men in a room … or however that process seemed to have taken place last year,” Aubry said. “What it ought to be is us, in a public place, discussing this and resolving this.”