TOMPKINS COUNTY, N.Y.—New Yorkers could find themselves with at least two rewards for emerging from the rubble of 2020: legalized marijuana and mobile sports gambling, according to two proposals announced by Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Jan. 6.

Cuomo made note of the budget crunch New York State will face in 2021 due to the coronavirus and its residual impacts while making the pair of proposals, specifically stating that marijuana legalization could generate more than $300 million in tax revenue for the state. Read the gambling proposal here and the marijuana proposal here.

Tompkins County Administrator Jason Molino declined to comment on either announcement. Meanwhile, Myrick addressed Cuomo’s marijuana announcement in a statement, looking to position Ithaca as an early adopter if the drug is indeed legalized.

“Legalization is overdue in New York State,” Myrick said. “The war on drugs has failed to keep us safe, has cost lives, and incarcerated too many people. We’ve been on the record for a decade that legalization is just and appropriate. And when it happens, Ithaca should become a hub of legalized cannabis that prioritizes disenfranchised communities, funds community services and increases product safety.”

The state’s proposal does not directly address what would happen to people who have been incarcerated as a result of cannabis-related arrests, though it does state “Cannabis regulation also offers the opportunity to invest in research and direct resources to communities that have been most impacted by cannabis prohibition.” It would legalize weed usage for adults over 21.

Whether or not these proposals actually come to bear, it does seem to be the most vocal support Cuomo has given to either topic. Though marijuana legalization has been popular among the population for several years, Cuomo has been tepid on pushing its legalization even after Democrats took control of both the State Assembly and State Senate.

One note that Cuomo made during his thrice-weekly press briefings is that he wants any mobile sports gambling operations to be run “like the state lottery,” meaning revenue would theoretically go to New York State instead of individual casinos. That could complicate the process of gathering approval, particularly if casinos begin to throw money against the effort. Sports gambling is currently only legal at, according to Cuomo’s proposal, the four upstate commercial gaming facilities and Native American gaming facilities, meaning downstate gamblers often go elsewhere.

“At a time when New York faces a historic budget deficit due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the current online sports wagering structure incentivizes a large segment of New York residents to travel out of state to make online sports wagers or continue to patronize black markets,” Cuomo said. “New York has the potential to be the largest sports wagering market in the United States, and by legalizing online sports betting we aim to keep millions of dollars in revenue here at home, which will only strengthen our ability to rebuild from the COVID-19 crisis.”

Cuomo further posited that New York State loses millions of dollars in revenue each year because bordering states Pennsylvania and New Jersey both offer online sports gambling.

Matt Butler

Matt Butler is the Education & Public Health Reporter at the Ithaca Voice. He can be reached by email at mbutler@ithacavoice.com