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The Saga of Zaza Waza: Illicit Weed Endures

And more news for your Friday.

An unlicensed weed bodega on the Lower East Side. (Hell Gate)

On Thursday morning, Upper West Side Councilmember Gale Brewer was all set to take a victory lap in her more than year-long quest to get the illicit weed shop Zaza Waza, which opened its doors in April of 2022, closed. On Wednesday, according to Politico, the City's Department of Consumer and Worker Protection padlocked Zaza Waza's door, citing the shop not for selling weed without a license, but for "repeatedly selling untaxed tobacco products," and Brewer planned a triumphant press conference to, as NY1 noted, "show how the City can successfully utilize tobacco law to shut down unlicensed sellers." 

Zaza Waza has been under more scrutiny than the vast majority of New York City's weed bodegas. NY1 reported that since it opened, the store has been issued dozens of violations and fines worth $225,000. In 2023, Brewer also claimed a sort of premature victory, after the Sheriff's Office cleared Zaza Waza of its wares—only for the store to be fully stocked with weed two days later. 

Earlier this year, the landlord, after being warned by the Sheriff's Office that they would be fined if they didn't take action against Zaza Waza, the landlord sued their own tenant for violating the lease by selling unlicensed tobacco and cannabis products. 

But even with all of this enforcement, Zaza Waza was not to be denied—somehow, by yesterday morning, the weed shop was open again, a move that Brewer said was "pretty lawless."

Zaza Waza's reopening this week, however, was brief. On Thursday, the NYPD, according to CBS, "cut the store's locks and replaced them with new ones," closing the store yet again.

If this is what it takes to get a single illicit weed operation shut down, it's hard to imagine the City succeeding in clearing the path for legal cannabis providers. What are we going to do, devote the full force of the City bureaucracy to an anti-weed bodega campaign?

As for the legislation that would give the City more authority to shut down illicit shops, its passage isn't exactly guaranteed—while both the governor and the State Senate are in support, the Assembly is more tepid. Zaza Waza is dead, long live Zaza Waza. 

And now some links that refuse to be shut down:

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