NYC shutters 75 illicit weed shops in first week of crackdown, with hundreds and hundreds to go

NEW YORK — Seventy-five illegal weed shops were shuttered in the first week of the Adams administration’s “Operation Padlock” crackdown on illicit marijuana sales in the city, officials announced Tuesday.

The first batch of closures marks a drop in the bucket as there are believed to be some 3,000 illegal pot shops operating in the Big Apple, most of which cropped up in the wake of the state legalizing marijuana in 2021 without immediately rolling out a comprehensive legal market.

In a press briefing at City Hall on Tuesday morning, Mayor Adams acknowledged there’s a lot more work to do.

“They are just getting started,” he said of the Operation Padlock strike force, which is being led by the city Sheriff’s Office.

The operation was launched in response to Gov. Hochul and Albany lawmakers granting the city expanded enforcement powers last month that allows it to close down illegal weed shops without first securing approval from the state.

Before the state gave the city the beefed up authority, Adams promised repeatedly that he would shut down every unlicensed weed shop in the city “within 30 days” of being awarded the expanded enforcement powers. But on April 30, shortly after the state finally gave him those powers, Adams tempered expectations, saying he’d instead make “a substantial dent” in reducing the number of illicit shops within 30 days.

The locations of the 75 newly-shuttered shops weren’t immediately known. An Adams spokeswoman declined to immediately identify them.

The spokeswoman also would not give a specific number of shops that Operation Padlock aims to shut down each week, but said the strike force will have 15 teams deployed across the city doing closure operations each day.

Going forward, enforcement teams will “proactively monitor” establishments that have been shuttered to make sure they stay closed, the spokeswoman added.

The 75 fresh padlock cases resulted in nearly $6 million in penalties being issued against the operators of the shops in question, according to Adams’ office. It’s unclear how many of those penalties have so far been collected.

A cannabis enforcement-related issue that has lately caught the attention of lawmakers is court processing.

Under the expanded enforcement authorities, the city’s Office of Administrative Trials and Hearings, known as OATH, must adjudicate any weed shop padlock case within five days.

OATH is already scrambling to address growing case backlogs that have resulted in the average adjudication time for summonses being 12 days in the current fiscal year, according to data contained in the latest Preliminary Mayor’s Management Report.

Manhattan Councilwoman Gale Brewer, a Democrat who chairs the Council’s Oversight and Investigations Committee, sent a letter to OATH Commissioner Asim Rehman last week raising concern about how the agency will be able to comply with the five-day timeline, given existing backlogs.

In a Tuesday response letter obtained by the Daily News, Rehman wrote that OATH is “actively working to hire additional staff” in order to quickly adjudicate the expected influx of new weed shop padlock cases.

OATH spokeswoman Marisa Senigo said the agency is, among other positions, looking to hire new judicial hearing officers, attorneys and support staff. She did not provide a specific number of new hires that the agency is looking to make.