Spectrum News: "Buffalo To Stop Enforcement of Most Marijuana Offenses"

February 15, 2019

Spectrum News:

"It's not making our community safer, it's an extra strain of the resources of the police and of the corrections department, and what we should really be focusing on is building healthier and safer communities," O'Suilleabhain said.

O'Suilleabhain published a report on marijuana arrests in Buffalo from 2012-2016.

By Alex Halght | February 15, 2019

During his State of the City Address Friday, Mayor Byron Brown said he is directing the Buffalo Police Department to stop enforcing low-level marijuana possession offenses.

"We will restore a sense of justice throughout our community. Low-level marijuana offenses for too long have derailed people's lives," Brown said.

It's news that makes Partnership for the Public Good Executive Director Andrea O'Suilleabhain very happy.

"It's not making our community safer, it's an extra strain of the resources of the police and of the corrections department, and what we should really be focusing on is building healthier and safer communities," O'Suilleabhain said.

O'Suilleabhain published a report on marijuana arrests in Buffalo from 2012-2016.

During that time period, 86 percent of people arrested for low-level possession offenses were people of color.

Open Buffalo Executive Director Franchelle Parker says even though arrests have dropped in recent years, the ratio hasn't changed much, which is problematic when you look at usage.

"Black folks and white folks use marijuana at approximately the same rate, and even some studies show that white people use marijuana at slightly higher rates," Parker said.

Buffalo Police Captain Jeff Rinaldo says there were about 175 arrests last year solely for marijuana possession, and says that enforcement has not been a priority for his department.

He says a majority of the arrests came from 311 complaints of people smoking outside of their homes or businesses.

"As the mayor said, as legalization appears to be on the horizon, we do have to look at new alternatives to addressing the issue where it is, causing a quality of life issue for residents in the city," Rinaldo said.

Brown also announced a new citizen policing academy called Police and Community Together, or PACT.

He says he hopes the initiative further builds lasting relationships between police and the public.

Meanwhile, Open Buffalo will continue to push for a variety of policing reforms including mandatory implicit violence training and racial equity training for all officers.

 

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