Gov. Kathy Hochul proposed a beefed up pot busting law to make it easier for New York City and other local authorities to whack unlicensed weed shops that have sprouted up all across Gotham and other parts of the state.
The legislation, included in the governor’s 2024 policy agenda unveiled Tuesday, would give the NYPD and the New York City Sheriff’s Office — as well as the state Office of Cannabis Management (OCM) — greater authority to padlock smoke shops and other retail stores illegally selling marijuana.
“These are necessary steps towards shutting down unlawful and unlicensed cannabis operations that jeopardize public safety and the integrity of the State’s legal cannabis market,” Hochul said.
Giving Big Apple law enforcement the tools to close the estimated 1,500 unlicensed pot shops across the five boroughs has been a top priority of Mayor Eric Adams — and Hochul’s proposed law mirrors a bill recently introduced by Assemblywoman Jenifer Rajkumar (D-Queens), a key Adams ally.
“New Yorkers in every corner of this State support the SMOKEOUT Act and the Governor has heard our call,” Rajkumar said in a statement Tuesday, “The Governor is right: We must give cities and towns the authority to shutter illegal smoke shops. Once we give cities the enforcement power, illegal smoke shops will finally close once and for all.”
Only one unlicensed pot shop has been closed in the city,
Big Chief Smoke Shop — located near a Catholic church in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn — had ignored repeated orders by the OCM and other law enforcement authorities to stop operating, authorities said.
There are 47 licensed cannabis operators in the state, 17 of which are in the city.
Hochul said the illegal shops have slowed the growth of the budding legal market and revenues the state collects from taxing sales of cannabis products.
“New York is building a robust new cannabis market grounded in a social equity framework that will generate millions of dollars in revenue for the State and communities harmed by the legacy of cannabis criminalization. Combatting the sale of unlicensed cannabis around the state is essential for achieving these goals,” she said.
Her proposal specifically expands the powers of the OCM to speed up padlocking of the unlicensed cannabis businesses.
It gives local governments the authority to execute OCM padlock orders to ensure swifter action to close illegal dispensaries.
To date, New York State has seized more than $57 million in illicit products, nearly 12,000 pounds of flowered pot and cannabis edibles.
The budding cannabis industry has suffered a rocky, slow rollout since marijuana was first legalized in 2021.
Regulators say early hurdles have been cleared and expect the number of openings of legal cannabis stores will increase dramatically this year as they ramp enforcement against the illicit market.