In just three years, the number of marijuana arrests in Buffalo dropped by more than half.
At the same time, the overwhelming majority of people arrested continued to be people of color.
A new study, released Tuesday, found 86 percent of the people arrested for marijuana possession in Buffalo during the five year-period ending last year were black or Hispanic.
In Erie County, people of color accounted for 77 percent of all marijuana possession arrests over the same five-year period, according to the study.
By comparison, the study found the percentage of blacks and Hispanics living in the city was about 50 percent and 18 percent in the county.
“You can be walking down the street and they’ll pull over and stop you,” Rashawn Pennick, a local man with several marijuana arrests, said of the Buffalo Police. ‘They stop me just to check me.”
Pennick, one of the speakers at a news conference promoting the study, has talked publicly in the past about his run-ins with the police and how his arrests forced him to give up his public housing apartment and live apart from his five children.
The new study on marijuana arrests indicates Buffalo is similar to other medium-sized urban communities and confirms that the disparity in arrests, a long-standing issue for local law enforcement, continues today.
Authored by the Partnership for the Public Good, a local think tank, the study is intended to boost efforts at reforming New York’s marijuana laws. Reform advocates say the costs of marijuana prohibition far outweigh the benefits, especially given the national movement toward legalization.
“It’s shocking how many we arrest,” said Sam Magavern, executive director of the partnership. “Mostly we’re talking about young people who have the most to lose.”
Rebecca Town, a lawyer for the Legal Aid Bureau of Buffalo,