NEW YORK, March 27 (Reuters) - New York state relaxed harsh Rockefeller drug laws from the 1970s that required prison sentences for nonviolent drug crimes and will let judges send addicts to treatment programs, state officials said on Friday.
Senate Majority Leader Malcolm Smith, at an Albany news conference joined by Governor David Paterson and Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, estimated this will save the state about “a quarter of a billion dollars” a year.
The governor and the legislative leaders are all Democrats, and Friday’s announcement was a breakthrough for them as years of efforts had produced only limited changes to drug laws. Until last November, the state senate was run by Republicans who repeatedly thwarted campaigns to ease the drug laws. (Reporting by Joan Gralla; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama)