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WNY group pushing "Buffalo Cannabis Act"

Posted at 6:51 PM, Dec 20, 2016
and last updated 2016-12-20 18:51:35-05

Western New York NORML (National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws) introduced a draft resolution to city lawmakers Tuesday that calls for police to stop arresting people for possessing small amounts of marijuana.

The resolution was presented to the Common Council's legislation committee in a public meeting.  Members of WNY NORML and community members spoke in support of the resolution, which was received and filed.  David Franczyk, chair of the legislation committee, said a council member needs to pick up this resolution and present it formally in order for it to move forward.

Franczyk also warned that any such resolution from the Council would be have a strictly advisory capacity.  Since these are state laws, the Common Council only has the power to recommend how the police department interprets them.

The draft resolution prepared by WNY NORML calls for the Council to urge Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown and the Buffalo Police Department to stop any arrests for marijuana possession less than 25 grams.  They are calling for tickets to be issued instead.

WNY NORML says the BPD arrests more than 400 people every year for marijuana possession below 25 grams.  Community members said those arrests can have lasting impacts on the city's youth.

"Decriminalization is so important because most people who are naive enough to get caught with [marijuana] are going to be young," said Robert Nesbitt.  "I was young.  And you interrupt their life at a very early age for something that can be rather inconsequential."

"[Ticketing] causes no lifelong problems for people," said Sky SaintMartha.  "And I just want my grandkids to have a chance."

Activists and community members hope city officials will stop arresting individuals for what they consider victimless crimes.

"The simple fact that you're targeting people for a crime that is not harming other people," said Anthony Baney of WNY NORML.  "It's a simple possession of a substance that even in recent studies is not damaging to oneself."