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Push to legalize recreational pot falls flat in New York

ALBANY, N.Y. (AP)  A push to legalize recreational marijuana in New York state has failed after state leaders did not reach a consensus on several key details in the final days of the legislative session.

Sen. Liz Krueger, a Manhattan Democrat and the lead sponsor of the main legalization bill in her chamber, confirmed Wednesday that her legislation would not pass this year.

"Through months of negotiation and conversation ... we made great strides," she said in a statement. "We came very close to crossing the finish line, but we ran out of time."

Despite broad support for legalization and polls showing its statewide popularity, lawmakers couldn't agree on the many details of legalization, such as how tax revenue should be spent, whether past pot convictions should be expunged, and whether local communities could opt out of hosting dispensaries or instead would have to opt in.

For supporters who had hoped the nation's fourth-most populous state would soon join the growing list of states where recreational pot is legal, the failure of the bill was a significant disappointment. They'll now turn their attention toward next year, an election year, in which legalization may be an even tougher political challenge.

With lawmakers set to adjourn this week, some supporters hope there is time to pass a more modest bill to eliminate criminal penalties for possession of marijuana and create a process for people to clear their records of past pot convictions.

Members of the Democrat-led Senate and Assembly had recently suggested several possible tweaks to legalization proposals in the hopes of picking up support. Yet none of them gained enough traction, while opponents of legalization held firm.

Illinois is poised to become the 11th state to legalize recreational marijuana after lawmakers in that state approved legalization legislation last month. Two of New York's neighbors, Massachusetts and Vermont, have already taken the step.

Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo included a legalization proposal in his state budget recommendation back in January but pulled the measure after lawmakers couldn't reach consensus.

He warned at the time that the decision to consider marijuana legalization on its own would make it harder to pass. The effort lost further momentum when lawmakers in next-door New Jersey failed to pass their own legalization efforts.

"I think politically the Senate is not ready to do it," Cuomo told reporters this month.  "It is a politically controversial issue, no doubt. ... I don't think it's feasible at this point."

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