• Wed. Jun 12th, 2024

Mayor Adams walks back timeline on shuttering unlicensed NYC pot shops

Mayor Adams walks back timeline on shuttering unlicensed NYC pot shops

Mayor Adams has for months assured New Yorkers he’d shut down every unlicensed weed shop in New York within 30 days of being granted expanded enforcement powers by the state.

But on Tuesday — a week after lawmakers and Gov. Hochul awarded him the beefed-up authority — Adams tempered his pledge, saying he instead anticipates making “a substantial dent” in the number of illicit pot shops within 30 days.

“So on the 31st day, don’t be standing in front of City Hall saying, ‘Hey, I saw a weed shop,’” the mayor told reporters, “because they’re going to continue to open, and we’re going to continue to close them. We have the tools now, when they pop up, we can close them.”

The latest comments mark a departure from a Dec. 10 assurance on his monthly “Hear From The Mayor” radio show: “If they give me control of the enforcement, I will close down every illegal shop within 30 days. That’s my promise to New Yorkers.”

A state of New York notice posted at a business announces the seizure of 'illicit cannabis' at the business as authorities crack down on unlicensed smoke shops on June 16, 2023 in New York City. The crackdown on illegal dispensaries comes after New York legalized recreational cannabis use in 2021 but only at approved stores that sell cannabis in a controlled and monitored environment. Since legalization, hundreds of businesses have opened across the city selling cannabis products illegally. Currently, about 10 legal pot shops operate in the state with the most in New York City and those caught selling illegally face fines up to $20,000 per day.

Spencer Platt/Getty Images

A state of New York notice posted at a business announces the seizure of ‘illicit cannabis’. Mayor Adams said Tuesday that the process of padlocking the hundreds of unlicensed cannabis shops operating in the city will prove complicated. (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

He has since floated similar statements, including on April 4, when he told reporters at City Hall: “If we’re given the power, my commitment to this city, in 30 days you will see these illegal shops disappear from the landscape of our retail institute.”

In Tuesday’s press conference at City Hall, Adams said the process of padlocking the hundreds of unlicensed marijuana hawkers operating in the city is going to prove a complicated endeavor, even with the new enforcement powers from Albany.

“Now there are steps we have to do here also,” he said, mentioning, for instance, that the Office of Administrative Trials and Hearings must hash out a plan to accommodate an expected uptick in hearings on cannabis store closures.

Adams also said his administration is in the process of figuring out behind the scenes how much law enforcement personnel will need to fan out across the city to put the kibosh on illicit pot peddlers.

“While this is taking place, the team has already identified the locations, we already have our operations in place of what we want to do,” he said.

Under the old regime, the city sheriff’s office and the NYPD couldn’t shutter an illegal smoke shop unless they got the green light to do so from the state Office of Cannabis Management.

Thanks to a provision tucked into this year’s state budget, though, local law enforcement agencies can on their own immediately padlock a spot, provided it is an “egregious actor,” which the measure defines as an establishment that sells marijuana to minors or operates near a school or a place of worship, among some other nuisance categories.

The provision, which was enacted with the rest of the state budget on April 20, says unlicensed marijuana retailers that don’t qualify as “egregious” can still be shut down by local authorities if a second inspection uncovers illegal goods on the premises.

Manhattan Councilwoman Gale Brewer, a Democrat who heads the Council’s Oversight and Investigations Committee, said a big problem in city-level cannabis enforcement is that the Adams administration hasn’t disclosed details on which agency will spearhead the illegal weed crackdown now that the state budget has passed.

She also said she never believed the mayor’s 30-day timeline for eradicating all weed shops was feasible.

“Ostensibly it should be easier now,” she said of shuttering shops, “but there’s not a lot of staff to do this work, and it’s not clear who’s going to do the work.”

Brewer said her committee plans to hold a hearing at the end of May to grill Adams administration officials about how they’re using the new weed enforcement powers.

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