New Proposed Law In NYC Aims To Shut Down Thousands Of Illegal Smoke Shops

Wagswoofs  –  New York City is taking steps to address the issue of illegal pot shops that have been popping up all over the five boroughs. Currently, law enforcement operations against these illicit establishments are handled by the state. However, a new law aims to change that and grant the city the authority to shut down these unauthorized dispensaries.

Mayor Adams’ administration has long been vexed by the presence of underground drug spots, which have become a major nuisance in neighborhoods throughout the city.

Local authorities would gain the power to permanently close these establishments through the legislation being introduced in Albany.

Assemblywoman Jenifer Rajkumar, the sponsor of the bill, expressed concerns about the impact of unlicensed illegal smoke shops on the safety of children in our community. She emphasized that these shops not only pose a danger to the wellbeing of our children but also serve as hubs for criminal activities.

Rajkumar, a close ally of the mayor, claims that the SMOKEOUT Act proposed by the mayor would provide a solution to the approximately 1,500 illegal shops within the city. Furthermore, Rajkumar estimates that there are around 36,000 illegal shops statewide.

According to the legislator, her proposed bill aims to empower both individuals and local communities by allowing them to take control over the sale of unlicensed cannabis. This measure is crucial in ensuring the safety of our children and neighborhoods.

Cracking down on unlicensed retail stores has been a challenging task for state regulators with the Office of Cannabis Management (OCM). They are struggling to keep up with the constant emergence of these illegal establishments, making it feel like a never-ending game of whack-a-mole. The limited manpower of OCM has hindered their ability to effectively address this issue.

The state has made efforts to impose fines on the fraudulent shops while officials work on the gradual implementation of New York’s legal cannabis industry. Yet, despite being caught, many of these shops opt to pay the fine and resume their operations.

According to Adams, the state lacks the manpower to effectively enforce its regulations. As a result, many establishments are able to open and disregard the fines imposed on them, viewing them as simply a cost of doing business.

Adams claimed that he could effectively close down all the illegal shops in the city within a month if he had the authority to enforce it.

In November, the Mayor expressed his intention to take action against landlords who allow illegal shops to operate on their properties.

The city has reached out to the owners of 50 buildings believed to house these illegal cannabis shops. They have been alerted about the possibility of facing fines for allowing their tenants to engage in the illegal sale of cannabis.

In October of last year, Governor Kathy Hochul made a firm commitment to combatting the proliferation of illegal shops. She highlighted the impressive results achieved thus far, including 246 inspections conducted and a staggering 8,500 pounds of cannabis seized from unlicensed retailers within a span of six months.

In 2023, the state took action against only nine unlicensed cannabis stores, leading to their shutdown.

In a groundbreaking move, New York State authorities recently obtained the first court order to permanently shut down an illegal pot shop in Brooklyn. This establishment had been selling marijuana without a license, leading to its ultimate closure. The decisive action taken by the authorities serves as a stern warning to other businesses engaging in similar illegal activities.

Located near a Catholic church in Brooklyn’s Bay Ridge neighborhood, Big Chief Smoke Shop has continuously disregarded orders from the OCM and other law enforcement authorities to cease operations, according to officials.

Rajkumar introduced his bill in the Assembly last week, but it still needs a sponsor in the legislature’s upper house. The timeframe for its progress remains uncertain.

Ever since marijuana was legalized in 2021, only 38 retailers have been licensed by the state. Cultivators and aspiring retailers have expressed frustration over the slow pace of the licensing process.

In the previous year, the issuance of new licenses faced a temporary setback due to a lawsuit challenging the alleged discriminatory nature of a program that gave priority to individuals with past drug-related convictions. In November, the lawsuit was resolved through a decision made by the state Cannabis Control Board.

The OCM did not respond to a comment request immediately.

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