"If you're not affected by this law you can't really even fathom the amount of damage this is doing to somebody's family — somebody's mother, somebody's father, somebody's child," Combs said Wednesday. "Lives are changed by this law, that if it's not happening to you or to one of your family members you may not really feel the effect of it."
The laws, passed in the 1970s, can subject first-time offenders to 15 years to life in prison if convicted of selling as little as 2 ounces or possessing as little as 4 ounces of a controlled substance.
There is a broad consensus that the laws are too harsh, but Gov. George Pataki and the state Legislature have been unable to agree on how to reform or repeal them.
Joining Simmons, Combs and Cuomo at a news conference at a midtown hotel were the Mothers of the New York Disappeared, representing family members of people incarcerated under the laws.
"There are a lot of issues on the table and this is definitely one of the most important ones on the table," Simmons told BET.com earlier this month. "This is important to hip-hop."
Black Entertainment Television and BET.com, like CBSNews.com, are part of the Viacom family.
New York's drug laws require mandatory prison sentences for infractions related to the possession, sale or distribution of illegal drugs.
Simmons is calling for a repeal of those laws by June 4.