Mayor Eric Adams and Manhattan District Attorney Alvin L. Bragg, Jr. announced a partnership on Tuesday with local law enforcement and elected officials to combat the proliferation of illegal and unlicensed cannabis dispensaries throughout Manhattan.
“Legalizing cannabis was a major step forward for equity and justice — but we’re not going to take two steps back by letting illegal smoke shops take over this emerging market,” said Adams, who added they're going after four unlicensed smoke shops.
“We are laser-focused on protecting the health and well-being of New Yorkers and ensuring this emerging industry delivers equity to those who deserve it the most.”
DA Bragg chimed in. “Just as we don’t allow endless unlicensed bars and liquor stores to open on every corner, we cannot allow that for cannabis. It’s not safe to sell products that aren’t properly inspected and regulated for dosage, purity, and contaminants.”
The DA referred to the proliferation of storefronts and smoke shops across Manhattan. “It’s time for the operation of unlicensed cannabis dispensaries to end.”
New York’s Gray Market Flourishes In Hundreds Of Smoke Shops
Despite the recent opening of the only two legal cannabis shops in NYC – in the entire state for that matter - Housing Works on Dec. 29 and Smacked on Jan. 24, smoke shops offer lower prices and, at times, more strains. The two new legal shops in lower Manhattan can only sell products grown and produced in NY state for which they need to charge 13% retail tax on top of a potency-based tax already paid by distributors, noted THE CITY.
The result? Higher prices. And it goes without saying that legal shops, when they open that is, will be vastly undersold by the smoke shops and the numerous individuals selling weed in just about every other city park.
THE CITY pointed out that the Big Apple’s 160 deputy sheriffs and fraud investigators are struggling to keep pace due mostly to understaffing. The sheriff’s office has 45 unfilled positions and the NYPD has taken a hands-off approach though they're asked to report relevant information to the NY Office of Cannabis Management.
What's To Be Done?
One way to get the ball rolling, many New Yorkers say, is the allow existing medical marijuana dispensaries to also sell recreational cannabis - a system successfully undertaken by neighboring states like Connecticut and Rhode Island and will be done in Maryland when that state launches sales this coming July.
For years, New York City has had the dubious recognition of being one of the biggest illegal weed markets in the world. So it's no wonder that the state’s slow pace (two years) and often bureaucratic rollout of its legal weed market has enabled decades of unlicensed and unregulated sales to continue unabated.
Photo of Eric Adams courtesy of NY Mayor's office
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