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Erie County DA asks judge to dismiss 35 low-level marijuana cases

Posted at 6:14 PM, Feb 22, 2019
and last updated 2019-02-23 09:03:32-05

BUFFALO, N.Y. (WKBW) — Thirty-five people who faced criminal charges for smoking or having marijuana will soon no longer have that offense on their records.

Erie County District Attorney John Flynn stood before a judge on Friday in Buffalo City Court to make that request.

"As this honorable court is aware there is every intention in Albany to legalize marijuana," said Flynn.

Judge Thomas Amodeo granted his request.

Flynn said he wanted to try and remove barriers those individuals might have as a result of convictions, warrants or arrests.

"You can't go into military, you can't apply for some jobs, you have a difficult time getting financial aid of you want to go back to college and get student loans," he said.

Early last month, the DA's office searched for active warrants in Buffalo City Court where the sole charge was a low-level possession marijuana offense.

"The negotiations on marijuana legalization are taking pace at a fast and furious pace," said Flynn.

As of now, smoking marijuana is still a crime. But last week Mayor Byron Brown ordered the Buffalo Police Department to stop enforcing low-level marijuana offenses.

Flynn said he's handled outstanding bench warrants in Buffalo, but he plans to also do this on a county-level

"I've got to go now to every town and village court in Erie county and get the list of outstanding bench warrants," he said.

Once he gets the list, assistant DA's assigned to each court will request that low-level cases be dismissed.

Other issues he said need to be handled once the legislation is passed are prior convictions of marijuana and pending cases.

Flynn also said there's a disproportionate number of minorities who are arrested for low-level marijuana offenses, despite equal use of marijuana between whites and non-whites.

Out of the 35 people's cases he dismissed, 28 were minorities. It will take about two weeks for the dismissal process to be completed.