N.Y. Sen. Joseph L. aliber (D-Bronx) is one of the most courageous drug policy reformers in the country. Many politicians have endorsed drug policy reform — or at least the discussion of it — but only Galiber addressed drug legalization in the midst of a heated election.
In August, one month before the New York state primary, Galiber sent to all Democratic constituents in the Bronx a letter detailing why he favored "establishing a system of drug regulation that could provide for vital human services and eliminate illegal drug profits."
On the back of the letter was a survey, which drew a surprising response: half of the respondents favored regulating and taxing marijuana, cocaine and heroin.
Galiber's legislative docket reflected his public support for legalization and control. He first introduced a comprehensive bill in 1989 to legalize currently illegal drugs. (See Drug Policy 1989- 1990: A Reformer's Catalogue, Arnold S. Trebach and Kevin B. Zeese, editors.) As ranking Democratic member of the New York Senate Judiciary Committee, Galiber held a hearing in New York City on his bill in June 1989. Drug Policy Foundation President Arnold S. Trebach testified in favor of the bill.
Senate Bill 4094A, the current version of his legalization bill, would legalize commonly consumed drugs, such as marijuana, cocaine and heroin, and would establish a Controlled Substance Authority to regulate the sale of hard drugs. Marijuana would be sold in liquor stores. Licensed stores selling low-potency forms of cocaine, heroin and hallucinogens would have to meet a set of restrictions. A controlled substance tax, 5 percent, would be levied in addition to the 4 percent state sales tax. The tax revenues would be earmarked for treatment and prevention.
Galiber is also sponsoring a study bill, Senate Bill 2159, to establish a temporary state commission to evaluate comprehensively New York's wide range of drug laws and their impact.
Galiber's landmark legislation did not go unnoticed by his opponent, Jeffrey R. Korman, who stated in Newsday on Sept. 4 that Galiber's legalization bill would "create a new generation of addicts." Korman accused the senator of being soft on crime. Apparently, the voters felt differently and he won.