NYC cracks down on marijuana sales by unlicensed retailers

Jahlil Rush, Production Assistant

New York City launched an initiative to deal with unlicensed marijuana vendors and marijuana sales within the five boroughs.

This comes as the New York Police Department conducts raids on businesses that illegally sell the products.

Law enforcement busted multiple locations in Greenwich Village on Jan. 30, leading to several arrests. They also recovered weapons at the locations as well.

During a Dec. 15 press conference, New York City Mayor Eric Adams unveiled a joint task force to crack down on unlicensed marijuana dispensaries.

The joint task force is a partnership that involves the NYPD, the city sheriff’s office, the city’s consumer and worker protections department and the state’s cannabis management office, according to a report from Gothamist.

Members of the New York City Council urged the NYPD to look into unlicensed marijuana sales throughout the city. In a public letter, Council Member Gale Brewer shared her concerns over unlicensed weed vendors popping up all over the city.

“I write to express concerns over unlicensed cannabis sales in my district and throughout New York City,” Brewer wrote. “Like many on the Upper West Side, I support the Marihuana Regulation and Taxation Act (MRTA) and consider the legislation, with its robust social equity provisions, the strongest cannabis law in the country. However, absence of its enforcement in these early days threatens to undermine the law’s intent before the legal market even takes shape.”

At the time of the task force’s formation, Adams responded to those who criticized the force’s creation and motives.

“To those who believe this is going to become the Wild, Wild West of cannabis sales, we are saying clearly and loudly, ‘No, it is not,’” Adams said.

The task force’s main mission is to target unlicensed sales of tobacco, vaping and unregulated cannabis products.

Since the task force was formed, its efforts ramped up dramatically. The task force inspected over 53 storefronts across the city and seized more than 100,000 illegal products with a combined value of $4 million. City Sheriff Anthony Miranda said that 500 civil violations and 66 criminal summonses were issued.

An NYPD survey found that more than 1,300 shops were suspected of illegally selling products related to cannabis and tobacco across the city, NYPD Chief of Patrol John Chell told Gothamist.

Adams announced a new partnership with Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg Jr. on Feb. 7. The district attorney’s office sent out more than 400 letters to smoke shops in Manhattan “warning of potential eviction proceedings for unlawful cannabis sales.”

The NYPD also filed four lawsuits against four shops in the 9th precinct, seeking to shut them down for the illegal sale of cannabis products and for operating without a license.

The task force will also target stores for trademark infringements. Some stores reportedly sell products that contain popular brand logos.

Since New York legalized recreational marijuana usage in March 2021, only two stores have been fully licensed to sell the product.

One of the stores is called “Smacked,” which opened in Greenwich Village on Jan. 24. Roland Connor, who owns the store, received $200 million from the state to help applicants apply for licenses under the state’s tightly controlled supply of dispensary licenses, PIX11 News reported.

New York awarded its first 36 licenses to legally sell marijuana in November 2022.

Adams made a key goal of creating a post-legalized New York City where marijuana consumption and retail are fair on a social and legal level. He also aims to set up a fair system in which reincarcerating people for marijuana possession is outdated.