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Mayor Brown orders police to stop enforcing low-level marijuana offenses

Posted at 2:43 PM, Feb 15, 2019
and last updated 2019-02-16 11:17:04-05

BUFFALO, N.Y. (WKBW)  — Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown has ordered the Buffalo Police Department to stop enforcement of low-level marijuana offenses.

Buffalo Police Captain, Jeff Rinaldo, said that this announcement is a more formal statement of something the police department has already been doing.

"Well this is something the buffalo police have already begun they have already de-prioritized low level marijuana obsession," Rinaldo said.

In the past year, there were less than 200 arrests where marijuana possession was the sole charge, according to Rinaldo.

"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 concern for other residents in the city," Rinaldo said.

What defines "low level" is still unclear. Rinaldo said he will have a better idea on the specifics next week. However, he did say it would mean personal amounts like a couple marijuana cigarettes.

If you are caught, he said you would most likely not be given a penalty. Instead, the marijuana would be disposed of and you could continue on your day.

For Open Buffalo, which promoted the idea of a looser stance on marijuana said this is a major breakthrough for criminal justice reform.

"Theres ton of negative impacts once you’ve actually been involved in the criminal justice system," Franchelle Parker, executive director of Open Buffalo, said.

About 200 arrests were made last yer solely for marijuana. While that number isn't large compared to the thousands of arrests made for other crimes, Parker said any marijuana related rest is too much.

"So 200 arrests are still 200 too many," Parker said.

However, not everyone is excited about this,

William Lowe, a spokesperson for the political action committee Citizens Against Legalizing Marijuana said, "You’re encouraging almost the youth to continue or to begin a very unhealthy drug."

He equates not arresting individuals for pot to looking the other way for any other crime.

"Just not enforce shoplifting or small theft. Those are illegal," Lowe said.

More information on what low-level marijuana offenses are will be provided next week, according to Rinaldo.