New York Task Force to Target Unregulated Cannabis Sales

During a press conference on December 15, 2022, New York City Mayor Adams announcement the creation of a joint task force between the New York Sheriff’s Office, the NYPD, the city’s Department of Consumer and Worker Protection, and the New York State Office of Cannabis Management to eliminate illegal dispensaries.

What the working group does

The objective of the working group is to target, among other things, the sales of unregulated THC products. According to Mayor Adams, in the past two weeks, agencies have inspected 53 storefronts across the city and seized more than 100,000 illegal products worth approximately $4 million. Additionally, the task force reportedly issued 500 civil offenses and 66 criminal summonses.

Need a working group

One particular case stood out: two men from Queens are face charges for allegedly operating an illegal marijuana dispensary. They were charged with a 57-count complaint charging them with second and third degree criminal sale of cannabis, third degree criminal possession of cannabis, unlawful sale of cannabis and unlawful possession of cannabis. Notably, the pair allegedly ran their business within two blocks of two neighborhood schools, which is one of the many things the Office of Cannabis Management (the “OCM”) has consistently strived for. to prevent.

Mayor Adams then spoke about the dangers of unregulated cannabis products, noting that some are packaged like candy and could appeal to children. One of the primary purposes of Adult Conditional Use Retail Dispensary (“CAURD”) Guidelines (see our recent webinar here) is the importance of product packaging and dispensary branding, to ensure that children are not targeted. Licensed products and dispensaries are subject to strict regulations on how they can be packaged and marketed.

Adams said store operators would be made aware of how cannabis licensing works in New York, suggesting he’s not ready to completely shut down some businesses despite their flagrant violation of the MRTA and state laws. from New York. Such a statement by Mayor Adams may not yet scare away illegal dispensaries/vendors from shutting down their businesses, but the creation of the task force shows a clear intent to address the illegal dispensaries problem plaguing New York City before the opening of CAURD dispensaries.

Beyond the working group

Mayor Adams noted that he aims to change state marijuana laws to make it easier to crack down on unlicensed storefronts, but he declined to share a specific legislative agenda for how that would be done. One of these measures, however, was announced by the Governor of New York State, Kathy Hochul, during a press conference: the State created a special seal associated with a QR code to be displayed in store windows. This will inform consumers that a store is licensed to sell cannabis and help shoppers avoid purchasing unauthorized and potentially harmful products.

New York is taking its cleanup approach a few steps at a time, but there appears to be a clear legislative intent to suppress unregulated sales once licensed dispensaries open. Our New York cannabis business lawyers will continue to follow the evolution of the local program of our office here in Manhattan.

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