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Columbia Drug Case Tests Rockefeller Law Change

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A police officer escorts Columbia University student Harrison David from the 25th Precinct in Manhattan (AP Photo/Tina Fineberg)

A police officer escorts Columbia University student Harrison David from the 25th Precinct in Manhattan (AP Photo/Tina Fineberg)

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NEW YORK (AP) — A case against five Columbia University students accused of dealing drugs on campus is putting a spotlight on a recent overhaul of New York’s once-notoriously stringent drug laws.

Lawyers for two of the five students say they plan to ask a court to prescribe treatment, instead of prison. Judges were given more discretion to do that in a 2009 overhaul of the laws.

Prosecutors declined to comment on the students’ request.

The outcome will be watched closely by backers and critics of 2009 changes to mitigate what were known as the Rockefeller laws. Advocates called the changes a more effective and humane approach to drug crime. Opponents said they gave drug peddlers a pass.

All the students have pleaded not guilty. They’re due back in court in March.

(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press.  All Rights Reserved.)

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