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New York state legalizes recreational marijuana

The Empire State is going green. New York Governor Andrew Cuomo on Wednesday signed legislation legalizing recreational marijuana for people 21 and older.

The new law also automatically expunges convictions for marijuana possession that would now be legal, and directs 40% of pot tax revenue to communities of color that disproportionately faced weed charges.

"This is a historic day," Cuomo said in a statement after the signing.

Legal marijuana had languished for years in New York's legislature. Cuomo said last week that legalization was a "top priority" for the annual budget, and the state's Senate and Assembly both approved legislation Tuesday.

New York will become the 15th state with legal recreational marijuana. Purchases will carry a 13% sales tax.

The new law immediately legalizes possession of up to three ounces of cannabis or 24 grams of concentrated forms of the drug for recreational use. Pot smoking is also permitted in most public places that allow tobacco smoking. The bill also sets up a plan for the state to create regulations in the coming months for the new marijuana market. 

A new state agency, the Office of Cannabis Management, will regulate the state's budding industry. Localities can pass laws this year opting out of marijuana dispensaries, which are not expected to open until 2022. 

Cuomo's office has said the legal marijuana industry could create 30,000 to 60,000 jobs in the state and bring in $350 million a year in taxes. 

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