Senator Gounardes Urges NYPD To Halt Illegal Cannabis Sales Amid Regulation Hurdles

With illegal cannabis sales in the Big Apple booming, councilmember Justin Brannan and state senator Andrew Gounardes (D) are urging NYPD commissioner Keechant Sewel to shut down all unlicensed sellers. The irony is that all cannabis stores in the city are unlicensed, as state officials have not issued a single license since the Marijuana Regulation & Taxation Act (MRTA) was approved in March 2021.

“It’s pretty clear that some businesses are exploiting this purgatory that we’re in right now where the state hasn’t issued any licenses but stores are selling and some of them are masquerading as dispensaries,” Brannan told Brooklyn Paper.

Brannen is worried about Brooklyn’s economy because of the tax dollars it is missing from illegal sales, saying that the borough will be “in jeopardy.”

“The issue we’re having is I don’t know how the state plans to make any money off of these licenses if they’re not going to enforce shutting down places that are selling without a license,” the councilman said. “We just don’t understand why the state isn’t doing anything about it.”

No Legal Adult Sales Before 2023 

Shortly after former New York Governor Andrew Cuomo signed MRTA into law, legislators created the Office of Cannabis Management (OCM) governed by a Cannabis Control Board (CCB) to oversee and implement the law.

Cantor Fitzgerald’s Pablo Zuanic predicted at the time that legal cannabis sales in the state probably won't start before 2023, which looks like it is going to be true. 

The Empire state legalized medical marijuana in 2014, limiting the number of operators to 10. With the legalization of recreational cannabis, these medical cannabis operators in the state are said to be allowed to enter by paying a one-time fee. 

Among those 10 medical marijuana operators are the following publicly traded cannabis companies Columbia Care Inc. CCHWFCuraleaf Hldgs Inc. CURLF, MedMen Enterprises Inc. MMNFFAcreage Holdings Inc ACRHFand Goodness Growth Holdings GDNSF.

OCM press officer Trivette Knowles confirmed that no legal recreational cannabis sales licenses have been approved yet. 

“There are no legal adult-use cannabis sales right now in the state of New York,” Knowles said. “There are brick and mortar shops that are illicitly selling cannabis [and] we really implore that all these shops selling cannabis right now, specifically these illegal dispensaries claiming to be legal, to stop.”

The office sent cease and desist letters to operating weed stores. 

“If we sent you a cease and desist letter and you continue to make illegal sales, you are jeopardizing your possibility to get a legal license and that’s not what we want [to happen] at all,” Knowles said. “We want to make sure that New Yorkers when they choose to purchase cannabis when they choose to do so legally in the next coming months, that they know what is a safe, tested product and that’s where OCM comes into effect.”

So far, the Office of Cannabis Management received 903 retail sale applications and should approve 150 licenses by the end of the year.

Photo: Benzinga Edit; Sources: Clay Banks  and Testeur de CBD via Unsplash

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