New York City Mayor Eric Adams on Thursday said that his administration is ready to crack down on the illicit cannabis retailers that have multiplied throughout the five boroughs.
“We are not going to allow these stores to stay open,” Mayor Adams said at a press conference, as quoted by the news outlet NY1.
The stores, which have become a fixture in the Big Apple this year, capture how awkward it can be for state and local officials to implement new marijuana laws.
Recreational pot was made legal in New York in 2021, when then-Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed a bill that ended the prohibition of pot in the Empire State.
The new law took effect immediately, allowing adults aged 21 and older in the state to have weed in their possession and to toke up in any public space where cigarettes are also permitted.
But the state’s regulated cannabis market has yet to fully launch. That has not stopped a number of eager entrepreneurs to get in a head start on the coming “greenrush,” even though none of the stores selling marijuana in New York are technically legal.
Mayor Adams appeared at the press conference on Thursday alongside New York City Sheriff Anthony Miranda who “held up an edible in a wrapper made to look like a Willy Wonka chocolate bar,” according to NY1.
“These are the products that are not geared toward our adult population, and these are the products that are endangering our children,” Miranda said, as quoted by the outlet. “This is enticing our children, and it’s being very misleading.”
NY1 reported that “Adams said authorities visited 53 locations, seized $4.1 million worth of product and issued 566 violations during a recent two-week sting operation.”
Miranda told reporters at the press conference that “the average fines for each location totaled $30,000 to $50,000,” per NY1.
This is not the first time that the officials in New York have launched a crackdown aimed at the unregulated weed retailers.
In February, the state’s Office of Cannabis Management said that it had sent cease and desist letters to a number of such businesses, ordering them to stop immediately and warning that continued sales could jeopardize their prospects of landing a marijuana retailer license.
“We want to make sure these operators fully understand the law and the consequences they face, and now that these letters have been sent, we fully expect them to cease and desist their activities—if they don’t, we will take action,” Office of Cannabis Management Executive Director Chris Alexander said at the time.
State regulators have warned that the products sold at unlicensed retailers may be unsafe, an assessment supported by a report released late last month by a coalition of trade organizations representing the legal cannabis industry in New York and surrounding states.
The report found that roughly 40% of the marijuana products sampled from unregulated New York City stores contained contaminants such as E. coli, salmonella, and lead.
“The report’s findings are deeply troubling and highlight the tremendous risks posed by unscrupulous firms operating above the law,” said Ngiste Abebe, the president of the New York Medical Cannabis Industry Association (NYMCIA), one of the group’s behind the report. “New York has a responsibility to not only protect the health and safety of its residents but also to fulfill the promise of a socially equitable adult-use market. Neither goal can be realized without stricter enforcement against bad actors.”
New York Gov. Kathy Hochul said in October that she expected the state’s first regulated cannabis retailers to open by the end of the year.
“We expect the first 20 dispensaries to be open by the end of this year,” Hochul said. “And then every month or so, another 20. So, we’re not going to just jam it out there. It’s going to work and be successful.”