Shortly before New York’s inaugural 36 dispensary licenses go out, the City has performed a massive crackdown on unlicensed weed vendors, complicating Eric Adams's earlier pledges to go easy on the city's massive gray market. In a briefing on Thursday, City and state enforcement agencies said they'd seized over 10,000 products worth more than $4 million, issuing 66 criminal charges and 500 civil summonses over the last two weeks.
In a press conference announcing the raids, Eric Adams said the legal market was threatened by black market sales, and that "counterfeit" weed was rampant, "threatening a budding economic opportunity for our city."
Adams also showcased edibles, the likes of which have been sold in New York since at least this blogger's first call to a delivery service, featuring candy-like packaging. "These graphics," the mayor said, displaying bags of Trippy Trix and Trolli Flowers, "speak volumes of what's being sold." (Previously, raided storefronts had been the subject of complaints from parents and politicians concerned about dispensaries' proximity to schools.) Still, it seems likely the City is largely concerned about a loss of tax revenue, as unlicensed cannabis vendors have spread across the five boroughs over the last year to offer, in the words of the Post, "a cornucopia of cannabis pleasures."
New York smokes more weed than any city in the world, by a hefty margin, and given its robust underground market, the proliferation of trucks and pre-roll storefronts seemed fairly inevitable. In June, the mayor took a decidedly more relaxed tone during a cannabis industry event, suggesting unlicensed vendors would be met with a slap on the wrist and a path to legitimacy. At the time, Adams told reporters he wouldn't be "heavy-handed" in cracking down on gray market marijuana sales. "Enjoy yourself, light up, but most importantly, spend some money. We want your money," he said, pledging to help unlicensed vendors secure a path to legitimacy rather than criminalizing them. According to New York Sheriff Anthony Miranda, the task force responsible for the recent raids made two felony arrests and one arrest on an outstanding warrant during its 53-location sweep; last month, the same agencies raided a shop in Bay Ridge where proprietors said they were waiting to hear back on the status of their state license.
The sheer number of weed stores in New York, and the herculean task of inspecting every smoke shop in the five boroughs, practically guarantees uneven enforcement, even as the city's first few legitimate shops are set to open by the end of the month. Luckily, a new genre of journalism has emerged to help identify illegal smoke shops. Shortly after Thursday's press conference, a CBS2 reporter helpfully explained that "flower, you see, is what those in the know call marijuana these days" as she checked out the offerings of an illegal shop near Times Square.
Previously in this burgeoning body of work, an unlicensed vendor told a Politico reporter he looked like a cop.
Things are not looking good for Letitia James. Via the New York Times: "The New York attorney general, Letitia James, continued to employ her longtime chief of staff in spite of his 'known propensity to sexually harass and to commit sexual assault and batteries,' according to a lawsuit filed Thursday by a former aide to Ms. James."