INTERNATIONAL NEWS - New York state lawmakers passed a bill Tuesday legalizing recreational marijuana, with Governor Andrew Cuomo saying he would sign it into law.
New York will join 14 other US states and the District of Columbia in permitting cannabis use after the bill was backed by both state chambers, where Cuomo's Democratic Party holds strong majorities.
"For too long the prohibition of cannabis disproportionately targeted communities of color with harsh prison sentences," Cuomo said in a statement.
"This landmark legislation provides justice for long-marginalized communities, embraces a new industry that will grow the economy, and establishes substantial safety guards for the public."
Cuomo's office has said the change could net an additional $350 million in annual tax revenues and create tens of thousands of jobs.
The law will allow adults 21 and over to purchase cannabis and grow plants for personal consumption at home, with a plan to divert some funds to drug treatment and education.
New York would automatically clear records of people with past convictions of marijuana-related offenses that would no longer be criminalized.
The law would also eliminate penalties for possession of up to three ounces of the drug (85 grams), the new personal possession limit. An existing medical-marijuana program would be expanded.
The state plans to tax marijuana sales at nine percent, with revenues from an additional four-percent tax divided between local and county government.
The move comes as Cuomo faces an investigation over an alleged pattern of sexually harassing and intimidating women employees, as well as accusations his administration orchestrated a cover-up of nursing home deaths related to Covid-19.