Sadly, upstate New York is plagued with disproportionate arrest rates for cannabis possession and the people have had enough. March 8, the Buffalo Cannabis Movement presented a proposal to legalize the possession of 2 ounces or less. The Common Council tabled the act for now, but not until after recognizing the bill’s significance.
The Buffalo Cannabis Movement, led by Anthony Baney presented the Buffalo Cannabis Act to the city’s Legislation Committee. The proposed initiative would allow adults to grow up to six plants and carry up to 2 ounces.
“We want the city to, within the city limits, to tell the Buffalo Police that people shouldn’t be arrested if they’re in possession of less than two ounces,” said Anthony Baney. “They shouldn’t be arrested for that and put in jail when we need jail space for other criminals that are, you know, committing real offenses.”
The cannabis movement in the area is quickly becoming a civil rights issue. Buffalo county and nearby Erie county are home to a disturbing trend of arresting minorities. In inner city Buffalo, 12 percent of those arrested for cannabis were white compared to 82 percent black who were black. Buffalo’s mayor Byron Brown, along with Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz, signed an “opportunity pledge” at least three times which promised to address the longstanding issues of racial disparity. Baney and the Buffalo Cannabis Movement want to see a decrease in cannabis arrests, like the decrease the District of Columbia saw when it decriminalized cannabis.
For a year now, local activists have been asking the Common Council and the Police Oversight Committee to reclassify cannabis crimes as a low priority.
In 2014, New York City dropped criminal penalties for possessing less than 25 grams of cannabis. The people of Buffalo want a similar measure. A speaker from the New York Department of Criminal Justice Services said “in 2014, African Americans made up 79.3 percent of low level marijuana arrests, in 2015, it was worse 82 percent.” In the worst areas, such as Erie county, blacks are almost six times as likely to be arrested for cannabis than whites. It’s a lot of wasted money for a city that is battered with a heroin problem, among other things.
Obtaining cannabis in a medical cannabis state shouldn’t be that difficult. A medical cannabis program in New York went into effect Jan. 7, 2016. Unfortunately, New York’s medical cannabis program that is in place is virtually unworkable, as cannabis clinics are shorthanded and receiving over 100 patient calls per day. The state’s Department of Health is withholding names of registered doctors from patients on the waiting list. Dr. Laszlo Mechtler is director of Dent Cannabis Clinic outside of Buffalo and a member of New York’s medical cannabis program. “In the meantime, while we wait for the politicians to make decisions, what do we do for our suffering patients?” he asked.“I can’t wait for a 12-year-old that has less than four months to live… That is my duty, to relieve that suffering.”
The 2 ounce limit would allow some patients to obtain their own medicine.
“People care about this issue, if you look at the polls throughout the nation, throughout the state, people overwhelmingly support medical cannabis, and more than a majority of Americans support legalization of cannabis in certain circumstances, if not more than an ounce, at least for people to grow their own,” Baney told Time Warner Cable News.
The Common Council President Darius Pridgen responded by saying that he’s open to discussing cannabis decriminalization.
Advocates hope that the city of Buffalo can follow other cities in New York that have decriminalized cannabis as a “lowest priority.”
Would you like to see marijuana become the lowest priority for law enforcement?