Assembly Dems resist crackdown on New York’s illegal pot shops in budget

Assembly Dems resist crackdown on illegal pot shops in budget
Assembly Dems resist crackdown on illegal pot shops in budget
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New state legislation that would make it easier to padlock New York’s unlicensed pot shops has wide support — but the state assembly’s top Democrats have refused to put the plan in this year’s budget, The Post has learned.

The proposed crackdown is pushed by Gov. Kathy Hochul and Assemblywoman Jenifer Rajkumar (D-Queens), and is even backed by Democratic leadership in the state Senate.

But Speaker Carl Heastie (D-Bronx) will not include the plan as part of this year’s budget negotiations due to Heastie’s opposition to putting policy items in the yearly spending bill, a spokesperson for the speaker said.

Unlicensed cannabis shops, however, do have a fiscal impact as they siphon business from licensed weed stores, depriving the state of additional tax revenues, sources said.

Democrats in the state Assembly are resisting a proposal to make it easier to padlock hundreds of unlicensed pot shops during state budget negotiations. Robert Miller
Democrats in the state Assembly are resisting a proposal to make it easier to padlock hundreds of unlicensed pot shops during state budget negotiations. Robert Miller
The proposed crackdown is pushed by Gov. Kathy Hochul and Assemblywoman Jenifer Rajkumar (D-Queens), and is even backed by Democratic leadership in the state Senate. Robert Miller
The proposed crackdown is pushed by Gov. Kathy Hochul and Assemblywoman Jenifer Rajkumar (D-Queens), and is even backed by Democratic leadership in the state Senate. Robert Miller

Rajkumar’s bipartisan bill, the Stop Marijuana Over-proliferation and Keep Empty Operators of Unlicensed Transactions–or SMOKEOUT– act, is backed by Mayor Eric Adams, who has made cracking down on the illicit pot shops a priority.

Hochul proposed a nearly identical measure, which would give New York City and other local authorities more power to shut down and boost penalties.

Unlicensed cannabis shops, however, do have a fiscal impact as they siphon business from licensed weed stores, depriving the state of additional tax revenues, sources said. Robert Miller
Unlicensed cannabis shops, however, do have a fiscal impact as they siphon business from licensed weed stores, depriving the state of additional tax revenues, sources said. Robert Miller

“It’s a big issue for many many members, many members in conference have brought up the problem of illegal stores,” Rajkumar, an ally of Adams, said.

Adams and city Sheriff Anthony Miranda said there are as many as 2,000 shops illegally selling pot, and current laws are inadequate to address the problem.

The futility of current enforcement was laid bare on Tuesday, when The Post discovered that two stores raided in Middle Village, Queens, last week for illegally selling weed had reopened.

One shop, Gas City Exotics, merely replaced the pounds of cannabis that was seized.

Hochul proposed a nearly identical measure, which would give New York City and other local authorities more power to shut down and boost penalties. Robert Miller
Hochul proposed a nearly identical measure, which would give New York City and other local authorities more power to shut down and boost penalties. Robert Miller

On Thursday, city authorities padlocked a smoke shop on the Upper West Side, Zaza Waza on Columbus Avenue, under a city law allowing it to license and regulate tobacco sales through the Department of Consumer and Worker Protection.

Zaza Waza also illegally sold weed, but authorities don’t have the power to close it for cannabis violations under current law.

Zaza Waza was padlocked on Wednesday but workers broke the lock and reopened the store Thursday morning.

Officers of the 24 Precinct returned on Thursday, ordered the employee out of the premises and then triple locked the store.

“The police were great. We need a similar law for cannabis enforcement,” said Councilwoman Gale Brewer, who held a press conference outside the store on Columbus Avenue Thursday morning.

A mayoral spokesperson said,  “The Adams administration is using every tool available to protect New Yorkers from dangerous, illegal products found in unlicensed smoke shops, including by creating our own interagency task force that has imposed over $90 million in fines and closed down over 170 shops.”

“But the city doesn’t have the power to permanently shut down illegal cannabis stores, and that’s why Mayor Adams has been clear in his call for Albany to give New York City the power to shut down these illegal shops. The administration is continuing to work with the governor’s office and our state partners to give municipalities the power to enforce against, inspect, and close illegal dispensaries more quickly and efficiently.”