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Adams, Sheriff: There Are Nearly 3,000 Weed Bodegas, But We’re Going to Shut Them All Down

City enforcers—armed with the most adorable little padlocks—are coming for unlicensed cannabis vendors.

Unlicensed smoke shop in Brooklyn.
(Hell Gate)

Did you feel that? The shockwave sent through New York City by a tiny padlock clicking shut on the front door of your local ZaZa 7/10 TR33Z? The mayor and the sheriff sure hope that you did, because they're shutting down illegal weed bodegas en masse thanks to new powers vested in them by the state budget—for real this time, guys! Seriously! STOP rolling your eyes.

On Tuesday, Mayor Adams announced the City's new cannabis licensing enforcement initiative, "Operation Padlock to Protect," during his weekly press conference at City Hall. The mayor told reporters that as he was speaking, a crack team of law enforcement officers led by the New York City Sheriff's Office was taking decisive action, and directed their attention to a screen, where they watched a transmission from the belly of the beast: Sheriff Anthony Miranda led a raid on a Lower East Side smoke shop selling weed, shrooms, and unlicensed cigarettes. According to Miranda, similar teams fanned across the five boroughs on Tuesday with a plan to shut down 20 weed bodegas in a single day—and, thanks to a new provision in the state budget, keep them shuttered for up to a year.

The mayor also slipped in a statistic that anyone who's been following weed bodega enforcement for the past few years will have to chuckle at: The official estimated number of weed bodegas in New York City is now around 2,900. That's nearly twice the 1,500 or so illicit shops that existed when the crackdown on illegal weed bodegas started in late 2022. (According to the New York Post, the Office of Cannabis Management—the state agency previously in sole charge of cracking down on unlicensed weed sellers—declined to give its own weed bodega "guesstimate" on Tuesday at a meeting at Queens Borough Hall.)

To say that the enforcement of cannabis licensing laws has been unsuccessful so far would be a profound understatement. Shit is like, Sisyphean: In March, an Upper West Side weed bodega called Zaza Wawa that City Councilmember Gale Brewer was personally beefing with reopened the day after it was dramatically and publicly closed by the sheriff's office—a common pattern (so common that the same thing happened at Zaza Wawa before, in 2023) that's made the scourge of illicit weed in New York City impossible to combat in a meaningful way…until, possibly, now. 

A new law in this year's state budget, the SMOKEOUT Act, aims to slam the revolving door of weed bodega raids and re-ups shut for good. While the embattled Office of Cannabis Management will remain in charge of inspections on stores that may be selling cannabis sans license, the law expands the power of local law enforcement agencies across the state to padlock stores that sell cannabis without a license and imposes a misdemeanor charge for stores that remove said padlock post-inspection. In New York City specifically, an amendment to the New York City Administrative Code will allow the Sheriff's Office to "inspect, issue violations, and seize cannabis and padlock stores" and deputize members of other law enforcement agencies, like the NYPD, to do the same. 

So, will it actually work? According to Adams, the answer is yes—but don't get on his case about it. While he previously promised to close every weed bodega in New York City within 30 days of getting the kind of expanded enforcement power the City now has, the mayor lowered the bar last week with a promise to make a "substantial dent" in weed bodega numbers on the same timeline.

"On the 31st day, don’t be standing in front of City Hall saying, 'Hey, I saw a weed shop,'" the mayor told reporters. Yeah, who would do a thing like that? 

Some links to put in your pipe and smoke:

Correction: A previous version of this story and its headline suggested that the Mayor's Office hasn't provided updates on the estimated number of illicit weed shops across the city since 2022, when that is not the case. The headline and the second paragraph have been corrected to reflect this.

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