Hochul, Adams vow major crackdown on illicit NYC cannabis shops: ‘Insanity stops right now’

NEW YORK — Gov. Kathy Hochul and Mayor Eric Adams celebrated Friday after securing tools in the state budget to crack down on unlicensed cannabis shops, and offered a blunt message to the illicit sellers: City and state authorities are coming after them.

“This is your warning,” declared Adams, carrying a padlock at a joint news conference with Hochul in Midtown Manhattan. “You will be locked out if you attempt to continue to sell illegal items.”

Hochul vowed the city’s sprawling gray market of cannabis shops would face a “reckoning,” saying that illegal shops had correctly assessed they would largely face consequences for flouting the state’s cannabis retailing laws.

“The insanity stops right now,” said Hochul, a Democrat. “I’m using the power of the state budget to give us the tools we need at the state and local level to shutter these illegal shops once and for all.”

Hochul and state lawmakers negotiated a package in the state budget that would deliver an arsenal of weapons to curb the spread of the illicit marijuana market.

It would allow the city to use its police department to close illicit shops; empower the state to revoke tobacco, liquor and lottery licenses from unlicensed cannabis sellers; and establish new fines for retailers that violate padlock orders.

Adams had pushed hard for the state to offer an explicit expansion of city authority to crack down on the shops. But he crowed that the legislative text allowing the revocation of various licenses — a plan targeted at bodegas violating the rulings — went further than he could have “ever imagined.”

“This is a part of the bill that we could only have hoped for,” Adams said.

To this point, the city and state have struggled mightily to fight off the illegal shops, which popped up across the city after the state legalized recreational cannabis in 2021. The state has licensed legal sellers at a glacial pace, allowing the illicit market to flourish.

City Hall has estimated that more than 2,500 cannabis shops are operating citywide. As of earlier this month, there were 40 legal dispensaries in the city, according to the state Cannabis Management Office.

Many of the unlicensed shops target children and attract crime, according to officials.

Adams and Hochul both acknowledged that New Yorkers are frustrated. But they promised change.

The governor underlined that the state intends to accelerate the licensing process. Last month, she commissioned a comprehensive review of the state’s licensing system that is now wrapping up.

“We’ll weed out the illegitimate shops, and clear the way for the licensed owners so they can grow their budding businesses and realize their dreams,” Hochul promised. “Here in New York City, I have no doubt that enforcement will start immediately."