Rockefeller Drug Laws

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There is an old saying among criminals that says 'if you can't do the time, then don't do the crime'. The drug laws signed by Governor Nelson Rockefeller in 1973 put drug criminals on notice that he was serious about the prison time that would be incurred for using, manufacturing, or selling drugs in New York.


The year 1973 was marked by the Watergate scandal, an uneasy cease-fire in Vietnam, and a rising tide of the counter-culture. Fuelling the resentment of public institutions and the mistrust of the government was the proliferation of drug use by a new generation. To many conservatives, it appeared as though the liberal left had won and the seeds of permissiveness were never more apparent than they were in the drug culture in New York. Conservatives, such as Nelson Rockefeller, fought back with legislation that was aimed at this cultural group, and targeted drug use as a common denominator to identify his political and social enemies. New York State became the front lines in the War on Drugs with the passing of strict anti-drug laws that would become to be known as the Rockefeller Drug Laws. According to Haberman, "Their essence was to send drug felons to prison for very long stretches, with sentences made mandatory and leniency rendered unacceptable even for first-time offenders". The right wing hawks had lost the war and resigned the White House, but they were not in a mind to lose the War on Drugs.
At the heart of the Rockefeller Laws were sentencing guidelines that placed an emphasis on retributive incarceration, and eliminated any possibility of ...
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