What is the effect of Buffalo’s policy change on low-level Marijuana possession?


Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown said on Friday, February 15, that the city needs to adjust how it polices marijuana. 

“We’re concerned about criminalizing people potentially ahead of a process that would de-criminalize marijuana,” said Brown following his State of the City address. 

He has ordered Buffalo Police to stop making arrests solely on a person having a small amount of marijuana. 

Valentino Shine Jr. found himself in that situation 10 years ago. 

“It’s a larger affect than just taking somebody off the street for having a dime bag of marijuana. I mean, it goes way further than once those cuffs get on those wrists,” said Shine Jr.

It is something Buffalo Police said they have not done in a while.  

Captain Jeff Rinaldo said most arrests over the last few years came after 3-1-1 complaints from businesses or home owners. He said, typically, a marijuana charge may come after someone is arrested for something else like robbery or assault. 

“It hasn’t been a priority. It’s not that we have any unit of the police department out there looking for people who are simply possessing or smoking marijuana,” Rinaldo said. 

Arthur Pressman, a Buffalo DWI attorney, said he does not believe much will change for people living in the City of Buffalo. 

“Over the last five to ten years there’s been very little enforcement of stand alone marijuana violations. It’s always been a non criminal infraction. The maximum penalty is a $100 fine,” Pressman explained.

Some people, especially those marijuana arrested for marijuana possession, believe this more formal policy could not only help restore the quality of life for people, but also restore the community’s trust in the justice system.  

“It’s great that the Buffalo Police Department has already been doing that. But it hasn’t been aware to the community. So, that’s a big difference,” said Shine Jr. 

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