BUFFALO, NY - A proposal to decriminalize small amounts of marijuana in the city of Buffalo was discussed in the Buffalo Common Council's legislation committee on Tuesday.
The Buffalo Cannabis Movement says people should not be arrested for carrying less than two ounces of marijuana. Several speakers in favor of decriminalizing marijuana spoke about making it legal to grow cannabis plants at home and carry up to two ounces on your person. Reasons varied from people being unfairly targeted and jailed for having a small amount, to the need to have it for health reasons.
One woman came with her children and told the council she's constantly ill and favors decriminalization. She also said "everybody needs to get over the stigma, it's a plant and most people smoke it and don't admit it."
Another speaker cited statistics from the New York Department of Criminal Justice Services, "in 2014, African Americans made up 79.3% of low level marijuana arrests, in 2015, it was worse 82%."
Council President Darius Pridgen said he is open to having a conversation on the issue. "What I can agree with is the necessity to begin having that conversation of looking at what other areas are doing, is it effective? Is it increasing the illegal drug market?"
In Erie County, blacks are almost six times more likely than whites to be arrested on a marijuana-possession charge. Julie Netherland, deputy state director for the Drug Policy Alliance, a New York City-based organization with offices across the country is calling for reforming the state's marijuana laws. Usage rates for marijuana are relatively equal across races – use among young whites is actually higher than among young people of color, Netherland said – but blacks and Latinos are disproportionately arrested.
The matter was tabled, but expect more discussions on the matter.