Attorney claims NYC's 'Operation Padlock to Protect' cannabis campaign is unconstitutional

Experts say there are about 3,000-4,000 cannabis shops in the city, but only a small percentage of those are operating legally. 

Ashley Mastronardi

Jun 17, 2024, 10:22 PM

Updated 35 days ago

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Mayor Eric Adams recently kicked off “Operation Padlock to Protect," a campaign that gives law enforcement the authority to padlock cannabis shops that are selling and operating illegally. But some say what the city’s doing is unconstitutional.
Experts say there are about 3,000-4,000 cannabis shops in the city, but only a small percentage of those are operating legally.  Sources close to the mayor’s office say state law gives municipalities the authority to do administrative inspections where cannabis is being publicly and unlawfully sold.  This law was passed at the end of April, but attorney Lance Lazzaro says it’s unconstitutional.
“There are a couple of problems. No. 1, the allowing of the sheriff to just unilaterally go into a store and do a search without having court approval and secondly giving a hearing after the fact at a place ... which is really a complete denial of due process because it’s not a fair hearing.  We’ve had cases at OATH where judges have ruled in our favor and a day later that judge has reversed her decision.  So, who is getting to that judge and telling that judge to reverse a decision?” Lazzaro said to News 12 New York.
He’s talking about the hearings for store owners being held at the city’s Office of Administrative Trials and Hearings – or OATH – which he calls a kangaroo court.  The mayor’s office told News 12 in a statement: “The Adams administration has been clear that the purpose of ‘Operation Padlock to Protect’ is to close down illegal cannabis and smoke shops to protect New Yorkers and better support the legal market by allowing justice-impacted and other legal cannabis business owners to thrive. With almost 400 shops sealed thus far, we have made progress to protect our communities from dangerous, illegal products while helping to create a path to a thriving legal market.”    Lazzaro says he’s actively pursuing this lawsuit on behalf of more than two dozen local cannabis shops and plans to win.


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