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Word Count: 533
Its been two years since Gen Barry McCaffrey the nations drug czar under the Democratic Clinton administration urged reform of the states harsh Rockefeller Drug Laws During that time much in the debate has changed but one constant remains The Rockefeller statutes are still on the books as Draconian as ever and still in need of urgent reform In 1999 Gen McCaffrey found himself in an alliance with Gov Pataki in urging reform even though the governor dismissed the generals position as politically motivated In truth the general was only calling for what Mr Pataki himself had proposed -- reform -- while the leader of the Democratic Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver was a surprise holdout fearing reform might make his fellow Democrats appear soft on crime Much has changed in the interim Now it is Mr Silver who has come out for reforms that have gained Gen McCaffreys support The plan would give judges more discretion in sentencing and stress treatment as an alternative to incarceration In the generals view this is the approach necessary to reverse the misguided Rockefeller Drug Laws that were passed during a time of enormous fear anxiety and lack of understanding of the issues They take a get-tough approach to drug crime by mandating a minimum sentence of 15 years to life for possession of four ounces or sale of two of an illegal substance even if it is a first offense That is not to say that Mr Pataki has abandoned reform To the contrary he has advanced a package that also would provide for judicial discretion and treatment alternatives But unlike the Assembly plan the governor would not include Class B felons as eligible for treatment Under the Assembly plan drug offenders Class B down to E would be eligible The governor also proposes to strengthen laws on marijuana possession and distribution claiming that present statutes are too lax The sale or attempted
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