New York campaign highlights licensed marijuana retailers

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New York state launched a public awareness campaign to steer consumers toward a short list of licensed marijuana retailers and away from hundreds that operate illegally.

The “Why Buy Legal New York” announcements emphasize the potential health risks associated with purchasing cannabis products from unlicensed businesses and why regulated products are safer, according to a news release.

The campaign also highlights how legal-product purchases help the state’s social and economic equity goals ushered in as part of legalizing possession and adult use in March 2021.

“To bolster the public health and safety of all New Yorkers, we are providing them with information they need to make informed decisions and enjoy cannabis responsibly,” Gov. Kathy Hochul said in a statement.

The primarily digital campaign, which targets cannabis consumers 21 and older, includes guides on safer cannabis consumption and finding licensed dispensaries.

The state has eight operational adult-use dispensaries, far fewer than predicted by Hochul and state regulators before the launch of recreational sales Dec. 30.

Last fall, Hochul had said the market was “on track” to open 20 retail outlets per month.

Unlicensed marijuana sales have flourished in New York for years, fueled by pop-up trucks and vans, bicycle deliveries and illegal bodegas and consumption lounges.

In mid-December Hochul unveiled a verification placard to distinguish between licensed and illicit cannabis operators in New York.

The verification includes a QR code that can be scanned by consumers and others.

As many as 1,400 unlicensed stores are selling marijuana products in New York City alone, which has jeopardized the state’s choppy rollout of adult-use retail.