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Buffalo Mayor orders police to stop enforcing low-level marijuana possession offenses

Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown announced Friday that he has directed police to cease enforcement of low-level marijuana offenses.

BUFFALO, N.Y. — During the annual State of the City Address on Friday, Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown announced that he has directed Buffalo Police to "cease enforcement of low-level marijuana offenses."

In doing so, Buffalo becomes the latest in a growing number of American cities where police have been told to look the other way when they encounter adults possessing, or using a small amount of marijuana.

The announcement garnered applause from the nearly 2,000 who had gathered at the Buffalo Convention Center to listen to the mayor's speech.

"With the recreational use of marijuana being made legal potentially in the near future in the state of New York we need to adjust how we police," Brown told 2 on Your Side's Dave McKinley following the speech.

When asked why he did not wait until that actually happened before he told police to stop enforcing an existing law, Brown replied, "we're concerned about criminalizing people potentially ahead of a process that will decriminalize marijuana."

Brown indicated further that it made no sense to continue going through the time and expense of arresting people for something for which charges would have to be dismissed if the state, as expected, legalizes recreational marijuana in the not to distant future.

And Buffalo Police Captain Jeff Rinaldo says the department wasn't pinching that many people for having a small amount of pot in the first place. 

"Where solely the possession of marijuana was the only charge, we had less than 200  arrests out of the tens of thousands of arrests we were making a year," said Rinaldo.

While some have claimed that minorities, in particular, were often and inordinately imprisoned for possessing small amounts of marijuana, police say those making that contention often forget or ignore the fact that the marijuana charge was only part of what someone may have been arrested for.

"Generally marijuana is found after an arrest for other things, such as robberies, assaults domestics, and that's where the charges have been placed," Rinaldo said.

Mayor Brown told 2 On Your Side's Claudine Ewing in May that his administration, "has been looking at low level marijuana offenses and the possibility of decriminalizing low level marijuana offenses."

RELATED: Mayor Brown will consider marijuana possession a low level offense

The mayor's comments in May followed a petition from Open Buffalo, which was signed by thousands of people, calling for Buffalo to make marijuana possession the lowest level enforcement priority for police.

India Walton is the Community Organizer for Open Buffalo.

"We launched a digital campaign and started collecting signatures and last year we got over a thousand signatures in Common Council Chambers" said Walton. "It's something people are aware of and have been asking for."

However, Kids Escaping Drug's Campus Director Jodie Altman says they do not support the Mayor's decision or the potential legalization of marijuana in New York. 

"These are kids there brains aren't developed we're introducing this poison into their brains and it's stunting their development and we see it causing problems down the line."

We want to know what you think about  Mayor Brown's announcement. 

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