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New York City Police Commissioner Bill Bratton, left, and Brooklyn District Attorney Kenneth Thompson speak to reporters during a news conference at police headquarters in New York, Wednesday, April 30, 2014. / Seth Wenig, AP

One day after New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed a bill allowing for the creation of a medical marijuana program in his state, the top prosecutor for one of New York's five boroughs announced that his office was loosening practices for low-level marijuana offenses.

Brooklyn District Attorney Kenneth Thompson said in a statement that in most cases, his office would no longer prosecute first-time offenders for low-level misdemeanor marijuana possession. Thompson said he was making the move in order to free up law enforcement for more serious crimes, and in order to work against the pattern of saddling young people of color, who often are those arrested with minor offenses, with records that will affect the rest of their lives.

"This new policy is a reasonable response to thousands of low-level marijuana arrests that weigh down the criminal justice system, require significant resources that could be redirected to more serious crimes and take an unnecessary toll on offenders," Thompson said.

The policy will not apply to crimes that raise public health and safety concerns, he said. For instance, it will not apply to people who use marijuana around children or for people who have a history of serious drug offenses, he said.

"This policy does not express approval for the use of marijuana and should not be interpreted as such," Thompson said.

The announcement comes one day after Cuomo signed a bill to create a medical marijuana program for New York state for patients with extreme illnesses or who are seeking relief from pain.

Thompson's announcement shines a spotlight on a lingering rift between factions in the city who are for and against loosening restrictions against marijuana. Mayor Bill de Blasio's campaign included calls for easing police policies.

But despite Thompson's action, Police Commissioner Bill Bratton said in a subsequent statement that there would be no change in how his department handles such cases.



Copyright 2014USAToday

Read the original story: NYC official eases practices for low-level pot offenses

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