1973 May 8

War on Drugs Really Begins: NY Rockefeller Drug Laws Enacted


The so-called Rockefeller Drug Laws — named after their champion, Gov. Nelson Rockefeller — imposed harsh punishments for the possession and sale of drugs. Because they served as a model for similar punitive laws in other states (and which eventually extended to other crimes as well), the Rockefeller laws are regarded by many as the real beginning of the War on Drugs.

Many people regard President Richard Nixon’s earlier speech on drugs in June 1971 as the beginning of the war on drugs. But in terms of their impact on sentencing in other states and the resulting explosion of the American prison population, the Rockefeller laws established a model for sentencing laws in other states over the next thirty years. In this respect, they were far more important than either Nixon’s speech or federal policies.

The Rockefeller Drug Laws were drastically modified in April 2009, significantly reducing the harshest sentencing features.

Learn more about the War on Drugs: http://www.drugpolicy.org/

Learn more about the Rockefeller Drug laws and their reform: http://www.nyclu.org/issues/racial-justice/rockefeller-drug-law-reform

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