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Gov. candidate Hawkins offers bold approach to heroin, racism

Howie Hawkins, the Green Party candidate for governor,

Howie Hawkins, the Green Party candidate for governor, is seen in upstate Troy on Wednesday, Sept. 17, 2014. Credit: AP / Mike Groll

ALBANY — Green Party candidate for governor Howie Hawkins has a novel approach to the heroin epidemic: Legalize it.

“I would legalize, regulate and tax drugs, starting with marijuana and heroin,” Hawkins said Friday. “We should treat drug abuse as a health problem, not a criminal problem. Drug treatment on demand, not mass incarceration.”

He would fund some of his initiatives using savings realized by taking nonviolent drug offenders out of prisons after granting amnesty to them, as well as parolees.

It is the latest bold proposal by the liberal candidate for governor. Hawkins has offered several innovative ideas in a governor’s race that is mostly focused on traditional issues such as the economy. Instead, Hawkins is taking on racism.

Hawkins would create what he calls a Truth, Justice and Reconciliation Commission. It would provide a critical review of the nation’s longtime “war on drugs” and the incarceration of minorities at a higher rate than white defendants. The commission would also look into the segregation in New York cities by housing costs, which he said leads to underperforming schools in low-income neighborhoods.

“Racism remains a real problem in our state,” said Hawkins, of Syracuse, who is a trucking employee, and a former Marine and Dartmouth College student. “Unfortunately it has yet to be addressed in a serious manner in the governor's race. I look forward to debates with my opponent.”

He will get that chance Oct. 22 in Buffalo. The candidates at the televised debate will be Hawkins, Democratic Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, Republican Rob Astorino, and Libertarian candidate Michael McDermott.

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