African Americans in the city of Buffalo (population 257,000) are disproportionately arrested for low-level marijuana possession offenses, according to an analysis of arrest data by the advocacy group Partnership for the Public Good.
Researchers evaluated marijuana arrest data for Erie County, New York for the years 2012 to 2016. Countywide, blacks comprised 71 percent of all low-level marijuana offenders, despite comprising only 13.5 percent of the population. In the city of Buffalo, 86 percent of those arrested for minor marijuana possession violations were either African American (80 percent) or Hispanic (six percent). Blacks and Hispanic represent fewer than 50 percent of the city’s population.
“[T]he disparities in the number of marijuana possession arrests cannot be explained by a higher use among black or Hispanic people,” authors concluded. “Legalizing marijuana would reduce low-level drug arrests by ten percent, and help reduce racial disparities in overall arrest numbers.”
Recent analyses from other states, such as New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Virginia, have similarly identified racial disparities in marijuana possession arrests. Nationwide, African Americans are approximately four times more likely than whites to be arrested for possessing marijuana, despite members of both ethnicities using the substance at similar rates.
Full text of the report, “Advancing Racial Equity and Public Health: Smarter Marijuana Laws in Western New York,” appears online here.