A new report released Tuesday from Partnership for the Public Good indicates that people of color were disproportionately targeted for cannabis crimes in Buffalo, New York and its surrounding areas. According to the report, Advancing Racial Equity and Public Health: Smarter Marijuana Laws in Western New York In Buffalo, people of color accounted for 86 percent of all cannabis arrests in Buffalo.
Although people of color represent only 38.6 percent of Buffalo’s population, they accounted for 80 percent of cannabis arrests from 2012 to 2016. Although people of color only represent 13.5 percent of Erie County, they accounted for 71 percent of cannabis arrests.
“It’s shocking how many we arrest,” Sam Magavern, executive director of Partnership for the Public Good told The Buffalo News. “Mostly we’re talking about young people who have the most to lose.”
Although overall cannabis arrests are down, between 2012 and 2016 over 2,000 people were arrested for minor cannabis charges.
The study purports that racial disparity in cannabis arrests leads to the lack of trust between Buffalo residents and police. “You erode the relationship between law enforcement and the community, especially those with people of color,” said Kassandra Frederique, state director for the Drug Policy Alliance. The same logic could be applied to any other city with racial disparity in cannabis arrest rates.
Buffalo isn’t alone. According to the American Civil Liberties Union, the aggressive enforcement of cannabis has led to racial disparity across the board in cities across America. Although cannabis consumption is relatively equal between people of color and whites in America, blacks are 3.73 times more likely to be arrested for cannabis.
This pattern of over-policing cannabis recklessly puts people of color in danger on a daily basis. The Partnership for the Public Good claims that the costs of continuing cannabis prohibition outweigh the benefits. If a law is unjust or presents racial inequality, it should be plucked out and repealed or replaced.