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Marijuana arrests target mostly black and Hispanics in region

ALBANY — As lawmakers work to legalize recreational, adult-use marijuana, police continue to arrest hundreds of mostly black and Hispanic people for marijuana offenses in the Capital Region’s more urban areas.

In Albany and Schenectady counties, marijuana arrests surged in 2017 and 2018, almost exclusively among people of color, while arrests of white people fell to a record low, according to a review of arrest data filed with the state Division of Criminal Justice Services over the past decade.

In both counties, police charged twice as many black people in 2018 than they did in 2016 for four criminal marijuana offenses, despite moves by some police agencies to roll back marijuana enforcement, according to the data, which covers 11 counties.

Officials in both cities said they are surprised by the widening race gap, noting that community-police relations have improved dramatically in recent years.

But the community policing initiatives by the Schenectady and Albany police departments has had little impact on police interactions with young black men in low-income neighborhoods, according to Alice Green, executive director at the Center for Law and Justice.

“Nothing has changed in terms of what we are hearing on the street,” Green said. “People are still being stopped and arrested.”

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