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Rockefeller Laws

  • By: JoAnna M. Elmquist, Andrew Ninnemann & Gregory L. Stuart
  • In: Encyclopedia of Drug Policy
  • Edited by: Mark A. R. Kleiman & James E. Hawdon
  • Subject:Public Policy, Drug Crimes

The Rockefeller Drug Laws were laws passed in 1973 that criminalized and attempted to reduce the sale, distribution, and possession of narcotic drugs in the state of New York. The bill was named after and enacted by the governor of New York at the time, Nelson Rockefeller, who was a strong supporter of the bill and a staunch advocate for Richard Nixon's “War on Drugs.”

Prior to the Rockefeller Drug Laws, individuals convicted of minor drug offenses were typically sentenced to a drug treatment facility, while more harsh sentences were reserved for those convicted of more serious drug cases, like those involving violent crime. With the passage of the Rockefeller Drug Laws, all individuals convicted of distributing two ounces of narcotics and/or being in the possession ...

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