TOMPKINS COUNTY, N.Y.—Officials from municipalities throughout Tompkins County expressed optimism that their local governments would elect to participate in New York State’s coming cannabis sales programs, initiated earlier this year by the New York legislature and Gov. Andrew Cuomo.

No actual votes were cast at the meeting between the Tompkins County Council of Governments, but it’s clear more information has become available through the state regarding how the money will be broken down in municipalities that participate in the program. Municipalities have no influence over whether or not marijuana is legal, but they can opt out of allowing vendors to establish cannabis storefronts and sell within their geographic boundaries.

You can watch the full discussion starting here in the meeting.

At least according to those in attendance at the meeting, the deadline for officially opting out of the cannabis sales program is Dec. 24, 2021, meaning a municipality must decide before then if they want to pull out. If no action is taken, a municipality automatically opts in.

Rod Howe, of the Town of Ithaca, said he would be “shocked” if the Town of Ithaca opted out, though they have not yet discussed it.

“I’m pretty sure Cayuga Heights will opt in,” added Linda Woodard, mentioning that Village of Cayuga Heights officials had begun discussing the process at a recent board meeting. “I think most municipalities will unless there’s very strong opposition, just because of the financial aspects.”

It appears that if a municipality opts out, they lost out on any direct money from the sale of cannabis. Lansing’s Joe Wetmore wondered aloud if money made throughout the county via a tax on cannabis sales would be pooled and redistributed, but it appears that is not the case.

Zoning will likely determine where the stores are allowed to open, and there will be places that allow in-store consumption of marijuana. They will be regulated, according to those at the meeting, similarly to bars that serve alcohol.

There were certainly unanswered questions, like Wetmore’s query about how tax revenue would be split among villages and towns, since often villages are wholly surrounded by towns.

Regardless, while the discussion was obviously still in its early stages, the financial projections are appealing to local officials (more details on the tax structure available here).

“The projection is $350 million a year from the sales tax,” mentioned Dan Lamb of Dryden, referring to the potential revenue number statewide. “I haven’t broken that down to what it is per municipality, but that’s a lot of money. It could add up for us.”

Matt Butler

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