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New York legalizes adult-use marijuana: 'A historic day'

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) -- Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed legislation Wednesday legalizing adult-use marijuana in New York, calling it a "historic day."

"This is a historic day in New York -- one that rights the wrongs of the past by putting an end to harsh prison sentences, embraces an industry that will grow the Empire State's economy, and prioritizes marginalized communities so those that have suffered the most will be the first to reap the benefits," the governor said in a statement.

Lawmakers passed the sweeping bill in a historic vote Tuesday night.

"Last night, the State Legislature made history and acted to right a wrong and legalize marijuana the right way," Mayor Bill de Blasio said Wednesday.

New Yorkers 21 and older will be able to legally buy cannabis from authorized retailers, possess up to three ounces, and grow as many as six plants at home. The potential $4.2 billion industry will mean $350 million in tax revenue for the state.

"We are ending a 90-year prohibition," said Assembly Majority Leader Crystal Peoples-Stokes, who sponsored the legislation.

Many local leaders are looking to a sign a "cannabis equity commitment" to make sure the revenue helps minority communities.

"In this bill, we have worked to protect communities of color from over-policing. We will spend cannabis tax revenue to help our communities that have been damaged by the War on Drugs," said Peoples-Stokes.

Attorney General Letitia James said in part, "The legalization of marijuana is a racial and criminal justice imperative."

Under the new law, tens of thousands of low-level marijuana convictions will also be automatically expunged.

READ MOREOpponents Of Marijuana's Legality In New York Fear Rise In Crime, Driving Under Influence, Decreased Quality Of Life

However, not everyone is convinced legalization a good idea.

"If revenues is the driver of this legislation, I think we should look for other alternatives," Village of Freeport Mayor Robert Kennedy told CBS2's Dick Brennan.

Kennedy said he wants his village to opt out of the sale and distribution of marijuana, for reasons of safety.

"I'm not satisfied with the ability to test the extent of influence marijuana has on any of the drivers at this point, and nothing has been shown to us with regards to this. Police are not satisfied with it," Kennedy said.

NYPD Commissioner Dermot Shea said he's uneasy with the new law.

"I worry about what's the unintended consequences. We've certainly seen that sometimes before. This is one that's a significant shift," Shea said. "I have no doubt they think that they're doing the right thing."

Some Republicans believe the new law comes with dangers and marks a step in the wrong direction.

"Legalizing marijuana guarantees young people will have greater access to a drug they shouldn't be anywhere near," Assembly Minority Leader Will Barclay said.

New Yorkers can start growing marijuana right away, but retail sales aren't expected to begin for about a year.

CBS2's John Dias and Dick Brennan contributed to this report.

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