BROOKLYN (CN) - Brooklyn's District Attorney announced Tuesday that he will not prosecute first-time offenders arrested for low-level marijuana possession.
Kenneth P. Thompson said the move is an effort to "make better use of limited law enforcement resources and to prevent offenders - who are disproportionately young men of color - from being saddled with a criminal record for a minor, nonviolent offense."
That does not Thompson approves of pot-smoking; he said the new policy will not apply to people popped puffing in public or near children.
"This new policy is a reasonable response to the 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.
"Pursuant to this policy, we will use our prosecutorial discretion to decline to prosecute, and dismiss upfront, certain low-level marijuana possession cases based on criteria concerning the particular individual and the circumstances of the case."
The district attorney - who took office a year ago and made a campaign promise to be more lenient about marijuana policies - said his office processed more than 8,500 cases in 2013 in which the top charge was class B misdemeanor marijuana possession, and that the charges more often than not are dismissed by judges.
"Given that these cases are ultimately - and predictably - dismissed, the burdens that they pose on the system and the individual are difficult to justify. We are pouring money into an endeavor that produces no public safety benefit," Thompson said.
If a 16- or 17-year-old is caught with pot, he or she will be directed by the DA's office to an adolescent court and then sent to a program, and the case will be dismissed when they finish the program. After that, "the police will be directed to destroy the defendant's fingerprints," Thompson said.
However, if a person has a criminal record "supporting the inference that he or she may act in a violent or dangerous manner while under the influence of marijuana," including domestic violence, they will get collared. The same is true if the person has an open warrant, if DNA needs to be collected, if the defendant must register as a sex offender, or if the case involves a search warrant."
Also Tuesday, on the other side of the country, the first marijuana stores opened in Washington state, under the state's new laws allowing recreational use of marijuana.