New York initiates massive crackdown on unlicensed cannabis retailers

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The first two weeks of ramped-up enforcement of illicit marijuana operators in New York led to 33 inspections, dozens of violations and the seizure of 1,000 pounds of unlicensed cannabis products.

The efforts carried out by New York State’s Office of Cannabis Management (OCM) and the Department of Taxation and Finance were authorized under a new law enacted last month by the governor to help rein in thousands of unlicensed stores, trucks and bodegas selling illegal marijuana products.

“Under new powers that I fought for in this year’s State budget, we can now conduct enforcement against businesses illegally selling cannabis, and I’m proud to report that in just the first three weeks of our efforts, we’ve seized nearly $11 million worth of illicit products off the streets,” Gov. Kathy Hochul said in a statement.

“These unlicensed businesses violate our laws, put public health at risk, and undermine the legal cannabis market, and with the powerful new tools in our toolbelt we’re sending a clear and strong message: if you sell illegal cannabis in New York, you will be caught and you will be stopped.”

Since June 7, the state agencies issued violation notices to 31 illegal cannabis businesses in New York City, Binghamton and Ithaca.

The full list of violators are available here.

The new legislation allows the OCM to assess civil penalties against unlicensed cannabis businesses, with fines starting at $10,000 per day and rising to $20,000 per day for the most egregious offenses.

It also authorizes the agency to seek state court orders to padlock businesses with repeated violations and establishes criminal penalties for selling marijuana products without a license – a rare step taken in states with adult-use sales programs.

Meanwhile the governor appointed Hope Knight, CEO and commissioner of Empire State Development, to the Cannabis Control Board (CCB).

Knight’s appointment comes a week after Reuben McDaniel, president of the Dormitory Authority of the State of New York (DASNY), announced his departure from the CCB.

McDaniel, whom Hochul appointed in 2021, was criticized for a perceived conflict of interest and blamed for the state’s inability to open adult-use retail outlets.