Protest Rally Against Rockefeller Drug Laws

Celebrities and activists gathered today in New York calling for the repeal of the draconian Rockefeller Drug Laws.

The speakers at the news conference and at a rally near 40th Street and Third Avenue said thousands of non-violent black and Latino New Yorkers who used drugs or were caught with a small quantity were unfairly sentenced under the 30-year-old laws. The laws, passed in 1973 and 1974 during then-Gov. Nelson Rockefeller's administration, can subject first-time offenders to 15 years to life in prison if convicted of selling as little as 2 ounces, or possessing as little as 4 ounces, of a controlled substance.

Governor Pataki promised reform of the laws during his last relection bid, when he was courting the hispanic vote. His spokesman today said repeal has been stymied by the state legislature, and that Pataki hasn't been able to get a bill past both houses. That much is true. But the reason for the stalemate is that Pataki's reforms haven't gone far enough.

About 200 people attended the rally, including hip hop mogul Russell Simmons, Susan Sarandon and Tim Robbins and Al Sharpton. Sharpton pointed out that redemption and rehabilitation should be granted to all, not just presidential nieces.

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