Cuomo calls for legalizing marijuana for adult use, details mobile sports betting in New York

ALBANY — Gov. Cuomo is again supporting the legalization of marijuana for recreational use by adults and provided details Wednesday about his new plan to allow mobile sports betting as the state faces a looming $15 billion deficit.

The governor will include the two proposals in his policy wish list to be unveiled next week as part of his State of the State address. Legal weed has stalled repeatedly in recent years due to discrepancies over licensing and tax revenue.


But Cuomo said New York’s COVID-caused fiscal crisis could mean state lawmakers finally pass legal pot.

“I’ve tried to pass it, but this is the year that we need the funding and a lot of New Yorkers need the funding,” the governor said in Albany. “So I think this year will give us the momentum to get us over the goal line.”


Under Cuomo’s proposal, an Office of Cannabis Management would be created to oversee the new adult-use program, as well as the state’s existing medical program.

It also would offer licensing opportunities for those in communities that have been disproportionately impacted by past enforcement of marijuana laws.

“I think too many people have been imprisoned, incarcerated, and punished,” Cuomo said. “Too many of those people are Black, Latino, and poor.”

The governor’s change of heart on mobile sports betting, which he has repeatedly opposed in the past, comes as neighboring New Jersey continues to set records with its own online gambling program.

However, the governor said he wants to set up a system that provides the most revenue to the state, not casinos that will host the servers for the online platforms.

“Many states have done sports betting, but they basically allow casinos to run their own gambling operations,” Cuomo said. “That makes a lot of money for casinos, but it makes minimal money for the state. And I’m not here to make casinos money.”

The proposals come as the governor celebrated a pair of wins in Georgia Senate races on Wednesday that will give Democrats control of both legislative chambers in Washington as well as the White House. The shift led Cuomo to say he will happily spend the weekend reworking his State of the State address scheduled for Monday.

Cuomo accused Republicans in Washington of sending New York taxpayers’ dollars to red states “as a pure political exercise,” blaming the state’s budget shortfall on “federal negligence” related to the pandemic.


“They have literally taken billions of dollars from us, and that was a function of the Senate and the president and they are both gone,” he said. “And today, Washington theft ends and compensation for the victims of the crimes of the past four years begins.

“And New Yorkers have been crime victims as far as I’m concerned by the theft of the federal government,” Cuomo added.

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo is calling for the legalization and regulation of marijuana for recreational use by adults, his third attempt in as many years to get the drug fully legalized in the state.

The policy proposals came as the State Legislature officially began its session for the year with lawmakers continuing to work remotely for the remainder of the session.

Democrats control both chambers and begin the year with a 43-member supermajority in the Senate.

Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins mentioned both marijuana and mobile betting in her opening remarks Wednesday, but indicated the Legislature will be open to other ways of raising revenue as advocates and progressive lawmakers call for increased taxes on the state’s wealthiest residents.

A man smokes marijuana at a Spleef NYC canna-cocktail party in New York.

“Our state’s finances are in desperate shape and we have a budget deficit to tackle,” she said. “We are up to the task, and we can do it without moving toward austerity or balancing our budget on the backs of working families.”


The marijuana legalization push follows failed attempts in back-to-back legislative sessions with Dems in charge of both chambers.

Some suburban lawmakers on both sides of the aisle have expressed reservations and concerns about safety and keeping weed away from kids.

If approved, the proposal would allow adults over the age of 21 to buy marijuana at state-approved dispensaries, with state budget czar Robert Mujica estimating that the state could reap an estimated $300 million in tax revenue once the program is fully up and running.