Community advocates are fed up with the proliferation of businesses peddling cannabis illegally in their neighborhoods.

They say these stores are too close to schools and religious institutions.

What You Need To Know

  • State lawmakers have introduced a bill to give municipalities like New York the power to order illegal cannabis shops to close

  • Mayor Adams has endorsed the bill, saying he would close all illegal cannabis shops within 30 days
  • The Office of Cannabis Management has gotten court orders to padlock closed nine illegal cannabis shops in the entire state

Assemblywoman Jenifer Rajkumar of Queens invited them to a rally at City Hall in support of her bill that she says would finally, once and for all, snuff these businesses out for good. It comes after so many legislative and enforcement efforts have fallen short, leaving the 75 legal dispensaries throughout the state to do business alongside thousands of illegal ones.

“Am I high right now? The situation makes no sense, but we can fix it,” Rajkumar said.

Rajkumar calls it the SMOKEOUT Act, which states that municipalities would have the authority to order an immediate closure of any business selling illegal cannabis or untaxed cigarettes, as well as seize their merchandise.

“The 2021 cannabis law vested the state with the authority to close down the shops, so what is currently happening is, the City of New York can fine a shop but then the shop pays the fine and opens right back up,” Rajkumar said.

The state Senate sponsor, Leroy Comrie of Queens, said the Office of Cannabis Management can’t handle the job. The OCM obtained court orders to padlock only nine illegal cannabis shops in the entire state.

“The Office of Cannabis Management doesn’t have the ability to shut these places down. They don’t have the manpower,” Comrie said. “They can’t amp up their manpower within a year to even try to address the scourge of these.”

Comrie said he wants this law in the budget.

“I want it in the budget as is, not watered down in language because we need to shut this down now,” he said.

In the meantime, state authorities are continuing to fine illegal cannabis shops $25 million worth of penalties, but only $22,500 dollars collected, according to the OCM and first reported by the nonprofit news outlet, THE CITY.

Gov. Kathy Hochul has a set of her own policies she’s pursuing in her budget proposal to close more of these shops, like streamlining the process of the Office of Cannabis Management to padlock shops and have local governments execute OCM’s padlock orders.

“Her budget proposal is the most effective way of expediting closures, deterring future unlawful activity and prioritizing the hard-working small business owners operating legally within our state,” Hochul spokesman Miguel Arreola said.