New York Enforcement Push Continues Against Unlicensed Cannabis Market

Crackdown efforts this year have resulted in seizure of almost $50 million worth of cannabis products.

New York marijuana regulators are continuing an ongoing crackdown on unlicensed cannabis sellers, the state’s Office of Cannabis Management announced Monday, and it appears to be having some effect. Out of 47 shop inspections last month, the OCM said just eight were found to be selling without the proper permits.

During the inspections, however, regulators seized products worth roughly $6.2 million, including:

  • 730 pounds of flower
  • 622 pounds of edibles
  • 45 pounds of concentrate

The OCM has been working in conjunction with agents from the New York Office of Taxation and Finance to conduct the enforcement efforts.

The 47 new inspections brings the total number of site inspections this year by New York officials to 289 different locations, the OCM said in its release, including 79 re-inspections. The crackdown seizures have totaled about 10,000 pounds of cannabis products worth almost $50 million, the OCM said.

“New York State has zero-tolerance for unlicensed cannabis shops that disregard local communities committed to creating a legal cannabis industry built on equity,” Chris Alexander, executive director of the OCM, said. “Collaboration and coordination are necessary to build a successful and equitable adult-use cannabis market. 

“In that spirit, we will continue to work diligently, using our enhanced enforcement powers to seize unlicensed products and fine-tune a more efficient closure process,” Alexander continued. “This work requires an all-hands-on deck approach alongside local government officials and stakeholders to comprehensively address this public health crisis.”

The update released this week is the first of a recurring monthly enforcement bulletin to be announced the first Monday of each month, the OCM pledged. The agency reiterated that those found to be selling marijuana without proper licensure could be fined up to $20,000 per day.

It’s not clear yet how many such fines have been issued or paid, since many shops that receive cease-and-desist orders have simply ignored them. One of the most high-profile unlicensed shops, Empire Cannabis Club, is reportedly eager for the state to take them to court, confident in its legal position that its operations are within the parameters of state law.

Estimates of illicit dealers and shops range into the thousands statewide, while there are only 27 legal cannabis retailers operating to date and 44 cannabis growers showcases, which are effectively marijuana farmers markets.

A court order has stalled many of the 463 conditional adult use retail dispensaries (CAURD) from opening, and it’s unclear how quickly New York may see more legal shops open for business, though the state is currently accepting more marijuana business license applications until Dec. 18.

John Schroyer

John Schroyer has been a reporter since 2006, initially with a focus on politics, and covered the 2012 Colorado campaign to legalize marijuana. He has written about the cannabis industry specifically since 2014, after being on hand for the first-ever legal cannabis sales on New Year’s Day that year in Denver. John has covered subsequent marijuana market launches in California and Illinois, has written about every aspect of the marijuana trade, and was part of the team that built the cannabis industry’s first-ever trade show, MJBizCon. He joined Green Market Report in 2022.

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