Assembly Passes Bill to Revise Drug Laws

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The state Assembly has passed a bill that calls for sweeping changes to New York's 36-year-old Rockefeller-era drug laws. WNYC's Elaine Rivera reports.

REPORTER: Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver says the bill is long overdue in addressing what he calls the state's outdated, failed drug policies. The cornerstone of the assembly bill expands discretion for judges who had to work with mandatory minimum sentences. It also calls for more funding for treatment programs.

But the measure is getting criticism from several constituencies. Drug reform advocates say it doesn't include enough judicial discretion, and non-violent drug offenders could still be unfairly incarcerated.

Prosecuters argue that judges could ignore their recommendations on how to treat convicted drug dealers. They also say the new reforms could send drug dealers back to their communities when they should be in jail.

A similar bill to reform the New York's drug laws is in the state senate, which has a slim Democratic majority. Governor David Paterson says he supports the reforms. For WNYC, I'm Elaine Rivera.