A New York state senator wrote a letter to the state’s Office of Cannabis Management, urging leadership to engage in “aggressive action” on unlicensed cannabis retailers after witnessing them in his own neighborhood.
State Senator Brad Hoylman-Sigal, chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, and representing New York’s 47th State Senate District on Manhattan’s West Side, is tired of unlicensed cannabis stores and dispensaries popping up across town.
Hoylman-Sigal wrote a public letter on July 17, addressed to Office of Cannabis Management Executive Director Christopher Alexander and Tremaine Wright, chair of the Cannabis Control Board, urging action immediately.
“In the 2023 budget, the New York State Legislature granted additional authority to the Office of Cannabis Management (OCM) and the Department of Taxation and Finance (DTF) to address unlicensed cannabis stores,” Hoylman-Sigal wrote. “This includes conducting inspections, imposing civil penalties, and seeking injunctions to shut down stores. I am grateful to see OCM and DTF begin to take action. Given the serious issues caused by these stores, I urge OCM and DTF to continue to act quickly and aggressively to shut down these unlicensed stores.”
Hoylman-Sigal addressed the severity of the issue, including stores dotting Manhattan.
“The scale of these unlicensed stores is staggering, with over 100 stores identified in Hell’s Kitchen alone. As I have expressed previously, these stores are deceptive to consumers, hazardous to public health, cheating on their taxes, undermining the State’s equity-based and legal cannabis rollout, and have little incentive to inspect IDs to ensure they are not selling to minors. Additionally, because these stores are unregulated and have little oversight, they pose a danger to employees and neighbors.”
Hoylman-Sigal went a step further to name dispensaries that are either unlicensed or have received complaints.
“I am enclosing a list of stores which have been reported to us by constituents as well as a list of unlicensed stores in Hell’s Kitchen compiled by the Hell’s Kitchen Neighborhood Coalition. I urge OCM to act expeditiously to shut down these stores.”
New York Takes Action on the Proliferation of Unlicensed Cannabis Shops
New York Gov. Kathy Hochul is also ramping up efforts to tackle the illegal dispensary situation.
New York State Office of Cannabis Management and Department of Taxation and Finance began inspections of unlicensed shops in early June under a new law signed by Gov. Hochul a month prior in May.
The new law signed by the Governor in May is part of the State’s Fiscal Year 2024 Budget. The beefed up penalties include fines of up to $20,000 per day, used to discourage illegal activity.
“Under new powers that I fought for in this year’s State budget, we can now conduct enforcement against businesses illegally selling cannabis, and I’m proud to report that in just the first three weeks of our efforts, we’ve seized nearly $11 million worth of illicit products off the streets,” Governor Hochul said. “These unlicensed businesses violate our laws, put public health at risk, and undermine the legal cannabis market, and with the powerful new tools in our toolbelt we’re sending a clear and strong message: if you sell illegal cannabis in New York, you will be caught and you will be stopped.”
The New York City Council is also stepping in. At a meeting of the New York City Council last January, officials pledged increased enforcement against unlicensed cannabis retailers and said that the state legislature is drafting new legislation to give law enforcement additional powers to shut down illicit pot shops. For the time being, unlicensed stores are easy to find in the state.