New York City launches new crackdown against illicit cannabis sellers

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Authorities in New York City have launched what they promise will be a citywide crackdown on rampant illicit cannabis sales.

Sheriff’s deputies and police on Tuesday visited at least 20 locations suspected of selling marijuana without a permit, according to New York TV station WCBS, and padlocked the doors of one smoke shop in Tribeca near City Hall.

The crackdown comes after state lawmakers granted local officials new powers to clamp down on an audacious illicit market that critics say is thwarting New York’s nascent legal marijuana industry.

New York legalized adult use in 2021, but lawsuits and bureaucratic snafus contributed to a botched rollout of legal sales that Gov. Kathy Hochul has called a “disaster.”

A lengthy interim period between legalization and licensed legal sales combined with lax enforcement helped encourage what could be the country’s largest and boldest illicit market.

Estimates of how many unlicensed sellers operate in New York vary widely, with Mayor Eric Adams claiming it could be as high as 2,800.

“The team is going to be ready to go hit those 2,800,” the mayor said Tuesday, according to New York TV station WPIX.

“We have a lock with your name on it,” he added, according to Benzinga.

Only 119 legal marijuana stores are open across New York state, according to the most recent Office of Cannabis Management data.

Adams had previously vowed to shut down all unlicensed sellers “within 30 days” of being granted the new powers to conduct inspections and lock violators’ doors.

He walked back that promise Tuesday and also declined to say how many have been shut down to date, according to WCBS.

The unlicensed sellers are one reason legal sales in New York totaled only $123 million in 2023, about one-quarter of projections.

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