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New York Lightens Up on Some of the Harshest Drug Laws in the Country

Let's hope the changes mark the beginning of the end of New York's Rockefeller drug laws.

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Nicholas Eyle disputes that notion, saying he doesn't believe that the dozen or so legislators from rural districts where prisons are prominent are a strong enough lobby to preserve the drug laws. Sayegh advocates replacing the 30,000 prison jobs with green jobs.

Still, economic issues may well have played a role. The state has been slammed with a $15 billion budget deficit. At $45,000 per inmate, the Silver statement emphasized, it costs New York more than $500 million a year to imprison drug offenders. The minimal changes enacted in 2004 have saved the state $100 million, it added.

"My Assembly colleagues and I continue in our pledge not to give up our fight for greater reform of New York state's ineffective and imprudent drug laws," Assembly Corrections Committee Chairman Jeffrion Aubry, D-Queens, a longtime advocate of repealing the Rockefeller laws, said in a statement after the deal was announced. "While today's agreement brings us closer to our goal, we recognize the need to do more."

Steven Wishnia is a New York journalist and musician. The author of Exit 25 Utopia and The Cannabis Companion , he has won two New York City Independent Press Association awards for his coverage of housing issues. He is looking for a job.