BUFFALO, N.Y. - It may be legal in New York State to have 25 grams or less of marijuana for personal use - but not in public view. Which is why there is a group calling on the Mayor of Buffalo to make marijuana possession the lowest level enforcement priority for the Buffalo Police Department.
"The loophole that's often exploited is that public view part, so when the police stop someone to question them and they say what's in your pocket, and they willingly display a small quantity of marijuana now it's an arrestable offense because it's in public view," said India Walton of Open Buffalo, an organization dedicated to social and economic justice.
"We want the Mayor to tell the Buffalo Police to stop arresting people for low level marijuana possession," said Walton. There is already a petition with over 1,000 signatures.
Mayor Brown told 2 On Your Side, "simply because you have 1,000 signatures on a petition...we have 260,000 people in the community." However, he said his administration is studying this to address neighborhood concerns and concerns of disparity in arrests.
One big complaint from residents in the city is people using or selling drugs on street corners or in front of businesses. "People are saying loud and clear they don't want that kind of activity in their neighborhood and I think that's what police respond to."
New York City has seen a drop arrests since addressing the racial disparity in making marijuana a low level offense.
Now Buffalo's Mayor is on the record saying "my administration has been looking at low level marijuana offenses and the possibility of decriminalizing low level marijuana offenses," and he said conversations with the Buffalo Police Department are "going well" and he foresees something could happen soon.
After examining court records, the Partnership for Public Good found that 8 out of 10 people arrested for low level marijuana possession are African-American.
Buffalo Police Captain Jeff Rinaldo isn't sold on the numbers. "I don't believe that the statistics ring true, again since it's complaint driven, it depends on where the activity is occurring. Some people's perception might be that's what we're doing, but I can tell you, that's not a motivation in the Buffalo Police Department. We don't look at race or color when we decide to make an arrest."
In fact in 2017, Rinaldo said the department "made only 143 arrests for the lowest level marijuana offense," and that is a low number for a department that responds to 6,000 calls for service a month.