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Hawaii Marijuana

FILE - This Feb. 17, 2016 file photo shows marijuana plants at a home in Honolulu. (AP Photo/Marina Riker, File)

Gov. Andrew Cuomo is pessimistic about the chances of legalizing marijuana within the 2019-20 state budget. 

Cuomo on Monday expressed doubt that marijuana legalization and the regulatory framework will be settled in budget negotiations. State legislative leaders have said that it will likely be dealt with after the state budget is finalized. 

"I am no longer confident that marijuana legalization will get done by the budget," Cuomo said at an Albany press conference. 

Legalizing the adult use of marijuana is one of Cuomo's top priorities this year. He included the proposal in his State of the State agenda. His plan would establish licenses for growers and retailers, ban the sale of marijuana to anyone under the age of 21 and impose taxes on the product. 

Cuomo's plan would also allow cities with more than 100,000 people and counties to prohibit marijuana sales. 

The Democratic majorities in the state Legislature support legalizing marijuana. But Cuomo said there is a "wide divide" between his stance and what lawmakers want out of the proposed program. 

Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie has said that marijuana legalization shouldn't be rushed. 

New York is one of 33 states that allows the use of medical marijuana. The state's medical marijuana law took effect in 2014. While Cuomo supported legalizing medical marijuana, he initially opposed allowing the recreational use of the drug. 

Last year, Cuomo called for a study to examine whether the state should legalize marijuana. In December, he announced his support of allowing the adult use of marijuana. He unveiled his proposal in January. 

Cuomo's estimates suggest legalizing marijuana could generate $300 million in tax revenue. The funds could be use to address other issues, such as the deteriorating subway system in New York City. 

The governor also views marijuana legalization as a criminal justice issue. While studies show marijuana use is nearly identical among races, African-Americans are arrested for marijuana possession at a much higher rate. 

"Stop the disproportionate criminal impact on communities of color," Cuomo said in January. "And let's create an industry that empowers the poor communities that pay the price and not the rich corporations who come in to make a profit." 

Cuomo and state legislative leaders hope to have the budget finalized by the end of this month. The legislative session is scheduled to conclude June 19. 

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Online producer Robert Harding can be reached at (315) 282-2220 or robert.harding@lee.net. Follow him on Twitter @robertharding.

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