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Brooklyn calls off first-time pot prosecutions

The district attorney in New York's rapidly gentrifying, uber-hip Brooklyn announced that he would no longer prosecute thousands of people arrested each year in possession of pot.

NEW YORK: The district attorney in New York's rapidly gentrifying, uber-hip Brooklyn announced on Tuesday that he would no longer prosecute thousands of people arrested each year in possession of pot.

Kenneth Thompson said limited law enforcement resources could be better used elsewhere and that petty offenders should not be saddled with a criminal record for a minor, non-violent offense.

In 2013, his office processed more than 8,500 cases of marijuana possession, more than two-thirds of which were dismissed by judges.

Thompson denied that the policy amounts to or should be interpreted as approval of marijuana.

The policy does not apply to those who smoke pot in public or in the presence of children, those already convicted or to child offenders who will be "redirected on to a healthier path."

"Cases will be dismissed... for those with little or no criminal record, but we will continue to prosecute marijuana cases which most clearly raise public health and safety concerns," he said.

A report last year found that nearly half a million people were arrested for marijuana possession across New York between 2002 and 2012, 85 percent of them young blacks and Latinos.

Processing the arrests clocked up more than a million hours of police work, said the report by the Drug Policy Alliance, which favours the decriminalization of the substance.

New York on Monday became the 23rd state in the United States to legalize marijuana for medical use to help patients with cancer, HIV, Parkinson's, epilepsy and certain other conditions.

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