Cuomo changes tune, plans to move on legalizing recreational pot

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WOODBURY -

Gov. Andrew Cuomo says he'll move by early next year to legalize the recreational use of marijuana in New York state.

"Let's legalize the adult use of recreational marijuana once and for all," the governor said Monday, despite years of firm opposition.

Cuomo announced the 180-degree turn during a speech in Manhattan in which he laid out his legislative agenda for next year. Cuomo says marijuana convictions unfairly target minorities and the poor.

Cuomo proposed taxing marijuana sales, which officials say could raise as much as $1.3 billion a year.

But not everyone News 12 spoke with says they're sure that marijuana legalization is good for the state.

"We have enough problems with the drinking," says Donna Kornblatt, of Melville. "No, I'm not in favor of it."

"You are opening up...a can of worms," says Old Westbury's Daryl Teres.

A major concern for some is that legal recreational marijuana use could be a gateway to other drugs. Addiction expert Steve Chassman, of the Long Island Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence, says if the state is going to rake in billions of dollars in tax revenue from marijuana sales, it also needs to make sure some of that money goes to help those who lose control with the drug.

Cuomo's change of tune on recreational marijuana use gained steam last year when two other neighboring states approved it and his Democratic primary opponent Cynthia Nixon called for legalization.

Cuomo requested lawmakers take up debate on marijuana legalization when they return to Albany next month.

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