Events Highlight Role of Pot In Rockefeller’s Drug War

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smoke signals sml[1]Cannabis and its defining role in the culture wars and the ‘war on drugs’ declared by former New York State Governor Nelson A. Rockefeller forty years ago will be fully explored by award-winning investigative journalist Martin A. Lee in two separate events in the North Country on September 26-27. Lee will also be speaking in Albany on September 28.

All three events are sponsored by the freedom education and human rights project, John Brown Lives!, as part of “The Correction,” the organization’s latest initiative that uses history as a tool to engage communities in examining the past and addressing critical issues of our time. The focus of The Correction is the impacts of the 40-year era of the Rockefeller Drug Laws.

Lee, author of Smoke Signals: A Social History of Marijuana—Medicinal, Recreational and Scientific (Scribner 2012), will give an entertaining yet thoroughly-researched overview of the world’s most controversial plant and discuss the far-reaching effects of the drug policies enacted in New York State and elsewhere around the country.

In 1973, then-governor Rockefeller reversed his earlier position that favored treating drug use and addiction as a public health issue to one that led to the passage of the harshest drug laws in the country. Following Rockefeller’s lead, New York Legislators enacted statutes that created mandatory minimum sentences of 15 years to life for possession of four ounces of narcotics—a comparable sentence for second-degree murder.

The statutes, which became known as the Rockefeller Drug Laws, ushered in a program of unprecedented prison building, mass incarceration, and population dislocation. These “drug laws” transformed the economy and the landscape of many small towns and villages of the North Country and, directly or indirectly, altered the lives of many thousands of people, their families and communities, upstate and downstate.

SUNY Plattsburgh’s Department of Anthropology and the Albany-based Center for Law and Justice are joining John Brown Lives! to sponsor Lee’s visit. His talks are free and open to the public.

Lee’s schedule:

  • ·Thursday 26 September in Plattsburgh

SUNY Plattsburgh’s College Ballroom

7:30-9:30 p.m.

sponsored by the Department of Anthropology

  • ·Friday 27 September in Saranac Lake

BluSeed Studio 24 Cedar Street

7:30-9:00 p.m.

  • ·Saturday 28 September in Albany

Arbor Hill/West Hill Branch of Albany Public Library

148 Henry Johnson Boulevard

2:30-4:00 p.m.

co-sponsored by the Center for Law and Justice

John Brown Lives! was awarded a $10,000 Project Director’s Grant for The Correction from the New York Council for the Humanities. Founded in 1975 and supported by Federal, State, City, and private sources, the New York Council for the Humanities helps all New Yorkers become thoughtful participants in our communities by promoting critical inquiry, cultural understanding, and civic engagement through grants and programs.

For more information, contact Martha Swan, Executive Director of John Brown Lives! at or 518-744-7112 or visit John Brown Lives! on Facebook.


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