NY is the 16th state to legalize marijuana, joining neighboring MA and New Jersey.
Lawmakers passed the sweeping bill in a historic vote Tuesday night.
State lawmakers reached a deal to legalize its recreational use for adults 21 and older over the weekend.
"This is a historic day in NY - 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", Cuomo said.
"The last time New York State did anything like this is when we were removing the prohibition from alcohol: that was in 1933", she added. "I look forward to signing this legislation into law".
New York's legalization of recreational marijuana could generate $5 billion in sales for the first year and raises pressure on other states to follow the 16 that have now approved the plant for everyday use, the head of one of the country's biggest producers said on Wednesday. "Our movement did not fight simply for legalization's sake, but worked for years to craft legislation rooted in racial and economic justice, in an effort to fix harms while also setting a new standard for anti-racist, class-conscious, and gender-expansive policymaking".
Gov. Andrew Cuomo's administration has estimated legalization could eventually bring the state about $350 million annually.
Marijuana will have a 13% sales tax, with 9% of the revenue going to the state and 4% going to localities, the bill said.
NY would automatically clear records of people with past convictions of marijuana-related offenses that would no longer be criminalized.
Other states have made similar promises, but such intentions can get lost as legislation evolves into the nitty-gritty of regulation and actually issuing licenses, noted Farrior, the managing partner of Digital Venture Partners, which works on cannabis branding and produces a video series highlighting people of color in the cannabis industry.
"We expect 2021 to be a record-breaking year for legislatures legalizing cannabis".
The state will open 35 new rapid Covid-19 testing sites by mid-April, a move meant to continue to track the coronavirus as NY begins allowing larger gatherings at weddings, concerts, sporting events and other venues.
In the November 2020 election, voters in Arizona, Montana, New Jersey, Mississippi and South Dakota approved cannabis reform measures while a national Gallup Poll released that same month revealed almost seven in 10 respondents approve of federal legalization, a record high.
The bill establishes the Office of Cannabis Management to regulate marijuana sales, expands existing medical marijuana and cannabinoid hemp programs, and creates automatic expungement or resentencing for those with previous marijuana convictions.
Before selling can begin, the state must set up rules and a proposed cannabis board.
"New Mexicans may not have to wait much longer to reap the benefits and justice cannabis legalization will provide-especially to Hispanic/Latinx, Black, Native and Indigenous communities, who have been disproportionately impacted by prohibition", she said.