Legislators take aim at illegal cannabis dispensaries, push for stricter renforcement

Manhattan Assembly Member Harvey Epstein discusses the new $10,000 per day fines landlords could face continuing to lease to illegal cannabis dispensaries.

Edric Robinson

Dec 12, 2023, 11:41 PM

Updated 182 days ago

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In a relentless effort to combat the proliferation of illegal cannabis dispensaries, legislators are intensifying their crackdown on landlords, warning them of staggering fines amounting to $10,000 per day.
Some community members argue that more stringent measures are necessary to ensure public safety and to permanently close these shops. 
"Over the summer, we sent out a few dozen [letters], and we're going to continue to send out more today," said Assembly Member Harvey Epstein.
Epstein said his office had mailed out over 20 letters informing landlords that their renters were selling illegal cannabis. 
“This year, we changed the law in New York state to make it clear that the property owners themselves are responsible,” added Sen. Brian Kavanagh at a news conference. 
Both stood in front of what they identified as an illegal shop on 1st Avenue and East 10th Street, reiterating their commitment to imposing fines on landlords who fail to take action against these establishments.
"Under state and city law, they could pay up to $10,000 a day in fines, yet they continue to proliferate," Epstein asserts.
Legislators say they have received hundreds of complaints from residents about shops popping up even after a few are forced to close.
The illegal market thumbing their noses at legislators despite letters being sent.
News 12 reported previously about letters sent to owners by Assemblymember Grace Lee.
They say one of the most concerning things about these illegal shops are their locations. 
"On our school block, we have four illegal shops," said Trisha Vega, parent and PTA president at PS 140.  Vega says she’s concerned that these shops prioritize profit over the safety of children. 
“They are selling to the kids, they’re actually allowing them to smoke inside the shop and nothing is being done about this,” said Vega. 
Legal cannabis shop representatives, such as Anthony Feliciano, from Housing Works, emphasize the strict rules they follow and condemn illegal shops for undermining public health and safety.
“These stores have an ability to evade the law by advertising being outside putting signage that we cannot do and we and our staff are educated to help people,” said Feliciano. 
Epstein acknowledges the complexity of the fine process. Landlords have a right to contest violations, which can take six months to a few years. He advocates for better enforcement through collaborative efforts between agencies. 
"The way to do better enforcement is to have the sheriff department and the NYPD close them down so they don't continue to operate," Epstein explains. 
He also added that modifications to existing laws may need to be made to empower the NYPD for more effective enforcement.


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