NY Cannabis Crackdown Stumbles as Dismissed Cases and Shop Reopenings Multiply

NY State’s Cannabis Law Faces Hiccups

Efforts to close down illegal weed stores in New York City, using broader powers granted under a new state law, have encountered issues. The New City Smoke Shop, in downtown Manhattan, which was held up as an example of how the state law could be effective, has reopened. The Daily News has discovered that mistakes and successful legal challenges have marred the crackdown on illicit cannabis shops, allowing many to remain open.

Administrative hiccups, including incorrect serving of summonses or sealing orders, have resulted in case dismissals during administrative hearings. Less than two months after it was shut, the New City Smoke Shop was allowed to resume operations due to such errors, a fate shared by at least two dozen other businesses in the city.

The legal representative fighting to stop the closure of these shops, cannabis attorney Lance Lazzaro, described the entire crackdown process as “completely dysfunctional.”

New Law, New Challenges

As NYC grapples with shutting down thousands of unauthorized cannabis outlets, it relied on a new law enacted as part of the state budget. This law granted the city more extensive powers, helping embark its latest initiative, “Operation Padlock to Protect.” The initiative, led by the Sheriff’s Office, the NYPD, and the New York City Department of Consumer and Worker Protection, primarily aimed at sealing the stores’ fate.

Despite facing obstacles, the city claimed to make substantial headway. The city was cautious in assuring the closure of all illicit shops within 30 days of passing the new law. The Mayor’s Office states that 535 raids have been carried out since May’s beginning. Millions in fines have been imposed, while only 141 state-authorized adult-use cannabis dispensaries operate across the state.

Not all Smiles at City Hall

However, Upper West Side’s City Council member, Gail Brewer, has pointed out the program’s defects.

Data furnished by the City Council Oversight & Investigations Division, which Brewer chairs, discloses that one in five adjudicated violations were dismissed as of June 27. This frequent dismissal generally stemmed from improper serving of violations.

In 24 instances, these dismissals resulted in the initial closure of businesses being overturned. Whereas, about half of 48 dismissed summonses during May were due to improper serving of businesses.

Despite Flaws, Progress Report Positive

Despite these complications, the Adams administration remains optimistic. A City Hall spokesperson claims over 530 illegal cannabis and smoke shops have been sealed, and over $17.5 million in illicit products seized. In addition, penalties exceeding $41 million have been imposed within two months into the enforcement.

Responding to concerns over dismissed cases due to improper servicing, the spokesperson said resupply is possible, even as the city fails to keep tab on reopened stores. The spokesperson added that so far, eight stores that were re-inspected have been shut down again after initially being allowed to reopen.

Press Conference Glory Short-lived

New City Smoke Shop was hailed as one of the first shops to be closed under the new scheme. However, its closure was overturned due to an improperly served summons as per Brewer’s office. The case against the shop was dismissed on June 14 and the shop was back in business a week later.

According to Lance Lazzaro, he has been successful in getting nearly two dozen shops reopened after opposing their closure in court. He insists that improper servicing remains a significant obstacle.

In conclusion, even as the new law allows local enforcement authorities to shut down places posing health and safety threats, it remains to be seen how effective it will be in stamping out NYC’s nearly 3,000 unofficial smoke shops.


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