For more than a year, an increasing number of smoke shops and bodegas across the city have been illegally selling marijuana products, seemingly with impunity.
State officials believe they’ve now unlocked the tools they need to turn the tide.
“It’s been extremely frustrating,” said Sen. Liz Krueger of Manhattan, who helped lead the push for cannabis legalization in Albany. “You go in, you close the store. You actually hit them with a $25,000 fine, and they’re open again two days later. And commenting, ‘Well, I can make more than that in two days anyway, so what’s the difference? I’ll just pay the fine.’”
What You Need To Know
- Legislation passed this week as part of the state budget imposes harsher penalties on unlicensed marijuana sellers
- The law now clarifies that both the sheriff’s office and police can conduct searches and seizures, and empowers the state department of taxation and finance
- Illegal cannabis sales can now result in penalties of up to $20,000 a day
- The legislation also allows the state Office of Cannabis Management to seize product and seek injunctions, potentially resulting in stores being closed down
Legislation passed this week as part of the state budget would inflict more pain on unlicensed sellers.
Meanwhile, the city sheriff’s office has already been spearheading raids — seizing product and issuing fines — the new legislation beefs up that effort.
It clarifies that both the sheriff’s office and police can conduct searches and seizures, and gives more enforcement power to the state Department of Taxation and Finance.
Unlicensed sellers can face penalties of up to $20,000 a day.
And most significant, according to officials at the state Office of Cannabis Management, they can also shut down businesses altogether.
“The biggest thing, I’m going to say, is our ability to chain doors,” Chris Alexander, executive director of the Office of Cannabis Management. “We’ve been playing whack-a-mole, we’ve been seizing products. But we couldn’t chain doors, we couldn’t put the signs up and now we have the ability to do that.”
Not only do illegal shops sell unreliable and even dangerous products and sometimes market to minors, officials say they’ve also become a magnet for robberies.
And they undercut the legal cannabis market, which has been slow to gain traction, with only eight dispensaries currently open statewide.
The new law allows the Office of Cannabis Management to seize product and seek injunctions.
“It basically allows us to go to the courts and say, ‘Hey, we have jurisdiction over this activity. These folks are violating that. Can we have the ability to close them down,’” Alexander said.
Also, unlike many laws that don’t take effect for months, the new cannabis enforcement measures take effect immediately under emergency regulations.