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No more minor pot arrests in Buffalo, mayor says in State of City speech

Getting caught with a marijuana joint or two is no longer grounds for arrest in Buffalo, Mayor Byron W. Brown said Friday.

"I am directing Buffalo police to have its officers stop enforcing low-level marijuana possession offenses," Brown said.

Brown disclosed the city's new marijuana policy during his 13th annual State of the City address, held before a crowd of almost 2,000 people at the Buffalo Niagara Convention Center.

Following the address, Brown said marijuana possession arrests already are not a priority for city police. Police made fewer than 200 "marijuana only" arrests last year, Brown said.

But the new city policy, Brown said, will further "deprioritize" such arrests. Police will promulgate specific guidelines, but basically arrests won't be made if someone has a small amount of marijuana for personal use, Brown said.

The change, he said, is being made as New York State moves toward legalizing recreational marijuana.

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo has said he would like to see recreational marijuana legalized this year.

In addition to stopping low-level marijuana arrests, Brown said during his State of the City address that Buffalo has negotiated a community benefits agreement with Flora California Prime to provide resources to promote jobs in neighborhoods most affected by marijuana arrests and to fund additional community policing initiatives in Buffalo.

Flora, a cannabis health and wellness manufacturing company, plans to open a complex on 47 acres of Buffalo land at several sites on Ship Canal Parkway and Laborers Way that would include 1.25 million square feet for cultivation, production and research. That would include an extraction laboratory to take the oil out of the plant and produce balms, creams, pills, transdermal patches and other health and wellness products.

Flora will also conduct product development and house its New York corporate office on the new campus. In all, the company estimates that it could employ between 500 and 1,000 people locally.

Brown also announced:

  • M&T Bank selected Buffalo as the site for a new technology support center, consolidating M&T technology employees now working out of six different locations in Buffalo, Amherst and Cheektowaga. The move is expected to bring 1,000 jobs to Buffalo, most of which already exist in other places. Additional details are expected to be announced by M&T at a future date.
  • The city's Main Street car-sharing conversion will continue from One Seneca Tower north to Church Street. The project will be funded with a $10 million no-interest loan from Douglas Jemal, the Washington, D.C.-based owner of One Seneca Tower.  The loan will allow the city to expedite car-sharing on that section of Main Street, Brown said.Jemal  has also agreed to purchase the former Buffalo police headquarters at Franklin and Court streets, which he will convert into apartments, Brown said.
  • On the city's East Side, Wi-Fi will be expanded to the Broadway Market. Also, the city has reached an agreement with Dr. Greg Daniel and his partners for a health and wellness center to be built on Jefferson Avenue, near East Ferry Street.
  • The city is enacting new programs to encourage home ownership and address so-called "zombie homes" that sit vacant and abandoned when they are being foreclosed on by banks.
  • Gigi's restaurant will reopen Feb. 25 at the Northland Workforce Training Center.
  • Shelby Young is being named the Buffalo Fire Department's first black female lieutenant. Young joined the department in 2000, Brown said.
  • The city is purchasing a new $760,000 fire rescue vehicle as part of an effort to modernize the Buffalo Fire Department fleet.

Brown spoke during his almost one-hour speech about the progress the city has made, but talked more about what still needs to be done. He compared the journey to a successful Buffalo to that of cleaning up after a snowstorm. The job isn't done when half the streets are cleared, and the city's renaissance isn't completed until the entire city benefits, he said.

"We are committed to leaving no one behind," Brown said.


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