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Crackdown on NY’s illegal cannabis shops is cranking up



Crackdown on NY’s illegal cannabis shops is cranking up

State and local law enforcement are getting more aggressive with unlicensed stores that sell cannabis, now that they’re armed with new legal measures that allow them to crack down on illegal pot shops.

In the past three weeks, state agencies have closed 114 stores that were illegally selling cannabis, while another 400 in New York City were closed using new authority provided under recent enforcement legislation.

“It is unfair that our new businesses starting out – people who suffered and struggled and saved and scrimped and finally had that chance – were being flooded by illegal operators who made it almost impossible for them to earn what they thought they would and to keep their doors open,” Gov. Kathy Hochul said Tuesday. “That era is over.”

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The State Police have launched a Cannabis Enforcement Task Force, which works with landlords to evict illegal dispensaries and penalize landlords who fail to take steps to evict tenants after they are informed they are operating illegally.

The state budget lowered the standard of proof for landlords to evict tenants who violate cannabis law, and makes it a misdemeanor to remove a padlock from an illegal store that has already been shut down. And penalties for landlords who rent to unlicensed cannabis shops have increased.

“We’re making a real difference,” Hochul said. “The progress is clear.”

The crackdown is responsible for a bump in legal sales, Hochul said.

In the first week of June, legal sales at 24 stores in a targeted enforcement area were up 27% compared with the first week of May – totaling more than $1 million in additional revenue, she said.

“That makes a difference between staying open and closing. That means you continue paying good wages to your workers. It means the farmers have a place to sell it,” she said. “It means you’re going to be prosperous. You’re going to be able to finally live the dreams that have been delayed for too long.”

As more licensed shops come online, cannabis sales climb higher. There are now 135 state-licensed adult-use dispensaries in the state, about a dozen of them in Western New York.

Last year, legal sales totaled $160 million. Already this year, sales have surpassed $200 million and are on pace to pass $13 million per week, Hochul said. 

“But it’s about more than the dollars, right?” she said. “It’s about small business owners being able to take care of their families, right? That’s all they want. They just want a shot.”

One New York City shop owner said his sales increased 70% when the illegal shops surrounding his store were shut down. 

“That’s why we’re going to continue pursuing our enforcement measures, so every small business owner – Black, Latino, women, immigrants, veteran business owners – all of them, are prioritized,” Hochul said. “This is what equity looks like, not just on paper.”

Christopher West, the first deputy superintendent of the New York State Police, said the task force and legislation give police “the tools we need to fully enforce the law and go after the bad actors.”

The Cannabis Enforcement Task Force coordinates staff from several state and local agencies, including local police and the Office of Cannabis Management.

“We continue with the goal of shutting down those throughout the state who are selling cannabis illegally,” West said. “Anyone who is selling illegally should expect to be inspected by the Office of Cannabis Management and investigators will have the authority to padlock and close those locations under certain circumstances.”

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