Secondary Navigation

Transcript: Mayor Eric Adams Announces Joint Efforts to Combat Proliferation of Illegal, Unlicensed Cannabis Dispensaries

February 7, 2023

Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg: Good afternoon. I am Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg. Want to thank everyone for joining us for this important announcement regarding unlicensed, untaxed, and unregulated marijuana sales. Want to just pause at the moment just to say that, that our thoughts are and prayers are with the officer from the 47th Precinct.

I want to thank all of the partners in government and law enforcement who are standing with us, of course, starting with the C.E.O. of our great city, Mayor Eric Adams; New York City Sheriff Anthony Miranda; New York City Corporation Counsel Judge Hinds-Radix; Christopher Alexander, the director of the Office of Cannabis Management; our borough president, Mark Levine; and our Council member for where we're standing right now and the chair of the Committee on Oversight and Investigations, Gail Brewer. And we're also joined by a number of our outstanding Council members from around the borough. Council members Botcher, Rivera, Marte, Anna Brahue. We're also joined by outstanding members of my office, the District Attorney's Office, Assistant District Attorney McCabe, Costello, and Galperin. So I just wanted to set the stage.

On March 31st, 2021, the governor of the State of New York signed into law the Marijuana Regulation and Taxation Act, creating a comprehensive regulatory structure to oversee the licensure, cultivation, production, distribution, sale, and taxation of medical adult-use cannabinoid hemp within New York state. It was a long overdue step. For decades, Black and brown communities bore the brunt of marijuana enforcement. It unfairly criminalized young people, drove mass incarceration, and failed to make our community safe. I personally saw the impact of that growing up in Harlem, and we do not want to go back to those days. But just as the end of alcohol prohibition in the 1930s, didn't mean just anyone could start selling homemade bathtub gin to their local store. Marijuana legalization in New York came with rules, and those rules must be respected.

Instead of respect for the law, what we have seen recently is the proliferation of storefronts across New York City, selling unlicensed, unregulated untaxed cannabis products. I commend our sheriff, Sheriff Miranda and our partners at the N.Y.P.D. for taking action to counter this trend. In a two-week period, the Sheriff's Office issued 566 violations and seized $4.1 million worth of product at 53 locations.

Likewise, the N.Y.P.D. seized an additional 20 trucks and buses selling unlicensed cannabis. Enforcement actions like these no doubt will continue and will continue to discourage unlawful behavior. But we need to bring additional tools to bear to this problem. In the last month, the first licensed cannabis dispensary is opened for business in Greenwich Village. One is owned by a not-for-profit that supports people living with H.I.V. and A.I.D.S., the other by a formerly incarcerated entrepreneur who received priority for a license because he is one of countless Black men who was harmed by the drug war in the 1990s. But those legitimate businesses faced stiff con competition from shops that are not following the rules.

It is time for the operation of unlicensed cannabis dispensaries to end. So today my office sent letters to approximately 400 smoke shops in Manhattan. We informed these shops that my office is prepared to use our civil authority under real property actions and proceedings law Section 7151 to require owners and landlords to commence eviction proceedings against commercial tenants who are engaged in illegal business activity. Including the unlicensed sale of cannabis, the sale of untaxed cigarettes, and the sale of adulterated products.

If owners and landlords fail to initiate timely eviction proceedings against these commercial tenants that are in violation of the law or fail to prosecute those proceedings diligently, my office is prepared to take over and pursue eviction proceedings. While we are not ruling out criminal prosecutions for tax evasion, money laundering, or the sale of cannabis to minors, the focus of this initiative at this time is civil enforcement. We want to give New York's legal cannabis market a fair chance to thrive and give New Yorkers the security of knowing that a safe orderly system is in place for cannabis dispensaries. Advocates fought hard to put racial equity at the center of New York's cannabis legalization regime. Past convictions were automatically expunged or suppressed. People with past convictions for marijuana and their family members are being given priority for these licenses. 50 percent of licenses are set aside to social and economic equity applicants.

The state created an incubator program to encourage these applicants and provide technical assistance to first time small business owners. And very importantly, 40 percent of the tax revenues from legal cannabis will be invested back in the communities that were most harmed by prohibition. Those who flout the cannabis tax laws and regulations are robbing the very communities that suffered from marijuana criminalization for decades. Communities that are finally on the cusp of benefiting from a just and equitable system. We cannot allow that. I will not allow that. I hope to see full cooperation from building owners and commercial landlords as we pursue this education and criminal enforcement strategy. Together, we can level the playing field for New York's legal cannabis market and deliver on the promise of equity and fairness that legalization of advocates fought so long and hard for. I now — I want to turn the podium over to the C.E.O. of our great city, Mayor Eric Adams.

Mayor Eric Adams: Thank you. Thank you. Good job, brother. Good job. I like to say the pilot. You know, all passengers on this plane. Right Marcia? This is just good coordination, and it's really about what you're seeing and I hope is a hallmark of this cohort of electors, particularly with the district attorney as we continue to combine the use in the powers of our offices to go after those things that historically we attempted to fight in silos of what the district attorney is doing around mental health. It's just really a compliment to what our goals are, getting those who are living on the streets or in households that don't have the services they need. And now we're looking at the issue of cannabis. Of… just say a few weeks ago we saw the opening of a few locations and we saw an over proliferation of those who thought they were going to skirt the law.

And there's a few dynamics to that. I think proper education is at the hallmark of what we must do. When you read and state that marijuana is legal, many people took it that you can just open up a location anywhere you want. And that is why we started with a level of education. We wanted to let people know that you can't just open the shop. And then the real partnership with our lawmakers — Councilwoman Gale Brewer, has been very clear of the large number of locations that have opened in her district. The borough president of Manhattan has also joined that. The local electeds that are here with us today have also pointed out these locations. And these locations, believe it or not, if you're doing an analysis, they're starting to feed robbery patterns. People realize that this is a cash business. They are targeting these businesses and it is causing a level of robbery in these locations.

So this holistic civil approach is also going to be connected to a public safety mechanism as well. You can't just open a shop and sell marijuana. There are rules and we must abide by those rules in a very real way. I was remiss, but I also want to thank you, district attorney, and join your call — our prayers are with the officer from the 47th Precinct. I communicated earlier with the police commissioner and hearts and prayers with him and his family. And as we get new information, we will keep everyone up to date. This is what this administration is zeroing it in on, and the sheriff, Sheriff Anthony Miranda, has really brought a approach of how we confiscate, educate, and not focus on incarcerate. That is not our goal. Our goal is not to turn one punitive approach to marijuana possession into another punitive approach, but we are very clear on those who are having high volumes and are attempting to skirt the law. We're going to use every level of government to address this.

Legalizing cannabis was a major step forward, but we're not going to sit back and watch that progression go up in smoke because people want to emerge in an illegal market, especially with so many of them are selling unlawful and unlicensed products that could seriously harm consumers. These products are not tested. In some cases they could be laced with fentanyl. These are dangerous products, and the public must be aware of that. And New Yorkers have had enough. They've sent a loud and clear message that these illegal smoke shops are on notice and we're given that notice today, they will be evicted. In many cases, those supplies that they're selling illegally, if it's over the legal amount, they're going to be confiscated. And they could also get an additional $5,000 penalty against them including any type of legal payments that they have to have.

And so the team has been focusing on this, the district attorney, the Police Department, our sheriffs, our agency of Workers Protection. We've all focused on this with the assistance of our local electors. And so these letters of notice are just one piece of our ongoing cannabis enforcement plan; we wanted to meet this immediately before it continues to spread throughout our entire city. We keep a database of locations. When our patrol forces identify a location, we keep a database on it, and we are going to continue to evolve on how we are going to carry out our enforcement. So today we are also taking direct actions against four unlicensed smoke shops in the Ninth Precinct. The corporation counsel, Judge Radix, will go into that. These individuals have been selling cannabis without a license and were illegally selling products to underage auxiliary offices as part of our test cases.

And so those who are selling illegal cannabis, they have no regard if you're selling it to minors or anyone else. This is a real issue that we are zeroing in on. And we're not going to stand by while illegal outlets sell drugs and vapes to our children, while simultaneously undermining an emerging industry that can provide jobs and justice for adults. This is justice and jobs that we have fought for for years, and we're not going to only use the tool of eviction, we're going to use the tool of proper enforcement, and that is why many of these initiatives are taking place at once. The two-week interagency pilot program we ran in November put all these locations on notice. And that is why we want to educate. And we have continued our enforcement efforts in recent weeks against bad actors. We have given them plenty of time to clean up the act.

We wanted to let them know that we're not going to stand idly by and we won't stop until every illegal smoke shop is rolled up and stubbed out and know that there are ways to sell legal cannabis. We are clear that bad actors undermines the promise we made to New Yorkers who were impacted by marijuana criminalization. And I too, like the D.A., I have witnessed that not only as a civilian, but also in the Police Department watching individuals being swept up by possessions of small quantities of marijuana. This is the moment we waited for to legalize and make sure that it's done correctly. Cannabis criminalization was an all-purpose tool to arrest and prosecute young men and women in this city, particularly those of color, that was wrong then and it's been wrong to have this process undermined.

Legal cannabis is expected to be a $1.3 billion industry, 40 million per year in tax revenues. This can be a real win for our city. And it will support 19,000 to 24,000 local jobs. And so we have a moral obligation as well as a legal obligation to ensure that it is done correctly. And so we're working with our new cannabis NYC office to make New York City aware of the opportunities that all New Yorkers should be aware of. We have witnessed how other municipalities did not get it right. We want to get it right here. And we want to help the businesses access finance, legal services, marketing resources, and ensuring the emerging industry delivers equity to those who deserve it the most. Now, again, district attorney, thank you so much for your partnership and moving this initiative forward.

District Attorney Bragg: Thank you so much, Mr. Mayor. And you mentioned partnership and coordination. I just want to thank the mayor for his leadership and also the accessibility of all of his senior staff. That's what helps us G.S.D. More than letters. And I also want to thank... I think I didn't do this at the top. I want to thank Goddard Riverside for hosting us. A tremendous community partner here on the Upper West Side. The mayor mentioned enforcement action that the corporation counsel's taken. So now I wanted to call to the podium Corporation Counsel Judge Hinds-Radix.

Sylvia Hinds-Radix, Corporation Counsel, Law Department: Good afternoon everybody. Thank you Mayor Adams and D.A. Bragg, and Sheriff Miranda and Chief Maddrey from P.D. for this collaboration to improve the quality of life for New Yorkers. Together we will ensure the growing serious problem that we face with unlicensed cannabis sales is abated and that business owners are held accountable for floating the law. In addition to the good work that the D.A. Bragg and the sheriff put to put the smoke shops on notice, the N.Y.P.D., pursuant to a designation from the corporation counsel, filed at least four nuisance abatement cases today. The East Village community raised complaints with the N.Y.P.D. and working with the Law Department, the city took action. The Marijuana Regulation and Taxation Act, as stated by D.A. Bragg, created comprehensive regulations for the sale of medical adult-use cannabis. The law is grounded in best practices for public health and safety, including keeping cannabis products out of the hands of youth and establishing product quality and safety guidelines. These defendants have operated in contradiction to the best laws and regulations in threatening the public health. As detailed in our complaints on three separate occasions, at each location between December 15th, 2022 and as recently as December 22nd, 2022, a plainclothes officer observed an undercover auxiliary officer under the age of 21 purchased cannabis from these defendants smoke shops. The sales included blunts, Mylar bags of cannabis labeled Savage New Year, Yellow Fruit Stripes, Premium Roll 2020, Future Bubble Gum ,and Dubz Garden Oreoz. These prices range from 25 to 30 dollars. The N.Y.P.D. tested the cannabis. And let me highlight for you: there was no fruit or bubble gum or candy in these purchases.

Marketing these products to young people is equally concerning from my office. We've taken the first steps with the State Supreme Court in Manhattan to put a stop to this illegal activity and to bring these defendants into compliance. If defendants continue to ignore the law, we'll seek a court order to close them down. The state marijuana laws were carefully constructed to provide justice and equity to communities. They were also crafted to ensure the public health and safety is protected. No business should choose which laws to follow. We will continue to work with our government partners, to hold violators and businesses accountable. The city's message to any business that thinks it can harm our communities and turn a blind eye to the law is we'll see you in court.

District Attorney Bragg: Thank you, judge. I will now hear from Christopher Alexander, the executive director of the New York State Office of Cannabis Management.

Chris Alexander, Executive Director, New York State Office of Cannabis Management: Good afternoon everybody. Thank you D.A. Bragg for your leadership in this moment as well as for your organization here and bringing all these parties together to make sure that this law is brought to life in the right way. Thank you, Mr. Mayor, as always, for your leadership. We have in the last several months done quite a bit to bring this law to life. I'm proud to stand as one of those advocates who fought for a long time to see this thing come to life. And you all hit on some of the key points that this is not what was fought for. These businesses that are skirting our rules, selling products attracted to minors, selling products to minors, doing so without reinvesting meaningfully in the communities in which they operate, not allowing the revenue to go back to the communities that have been impacted, all violate both the laws on the books, on the state. Cannabis law, state tax law, municipal law, penal law, but also the principle under the M.R.T.A.

And so we're proud to stand here, our enforcement team. The newest state agency, so we've been building capacity. But we're proud to have been able to take this action with the New York City Sheriff's Office over the last several weeks and months and participate in the seizure of millions of pounds of cannabis, millions of pounds, millions of dollars worth of cannabis products. And really, our focus here has been making sure that we're improving public health outcomes. We're not allowing the sale of products that are contaminated. We don't know where this product has come from. In many cases, we've heard products coming from out-of-state operators who failed testing in their states and are selling their product here to be sold on the streets of New York. And most of all, these products and these stores continue to confuse consumers, who may had thought that legalization as it came to New York State would look a certain kind of way.

This is not it. We're proud to have opened the first two dispensaries. As the D.A. mentioned, one that's an organization that serves those who've been formerly incarcerated and those who are dealing with H.I.V. and A.I.D.S. And another to an individual who's been impacted himself from marijuana prohibition as disproportionate enforcement. We're proud to bring these types of operators into this space. We're proud to be breaking the stigma around cannabis and its potential uses and benefits. We're also proud to be changing the mold of what the cannabis industry can look like. But we cannot do that while we have these illicit shops draining not necessary resources from our program and confusing the public. So we are really eager to continue to take on this work. The governor who has done the most to support our program coming to life, including making sure the Office of Cannabis Management has all the resources that it needs and we're still growing to capacity. But in the meantime, we've had to lean and work really collaboratively with our local partners.

And so this model here that you are laying out, D.A. Bragg, is one that I hope is replicated across the state. We are going to be calling every county official and every local government to make sure that they know to call your office when they want to know how it's done. So we appreciate all of you in your partnership. We're proud to stand with you. And as you said, the Marijuana Regulation Taxation Act is far-reaching in its principles and we are trying to do it right, and I believe that we are. But without this type of collaboration and partnership, it will continue to have our goals frustrated. And so I just thank you all and eager to get back out there and continue to seize this product. Thank you.

District Attorney Bragg: Thank you so much. Inspiring to hear from someone who advocated for it now overseeing the implementation. Now, want to turn it over to my partner in government and I'm so proud to represent the borough of Manhattan and even prouder to do it side by side with my dear friend, our borough president, Mark Levine.

Manhattan Borough President Mark Levine: Thank you. Thank you so much. Thank you D.A. Bragg for leading on this issue and so much more. Grateful for our partnership. Mr. Mayor and your team, you're getting this done. More than just letters, thank you. Thank you also to my wonderful predecessor, Gale Brewer, for raising hell about this issue. You're very good at raising hell, Gale, and we appreciate you always. For those of you who are getting to know Goddard Riverside, if it's your first time visiting here, this is one of the best social service nonprofits and housing nonprofits in New York City and beyond. Rod Jones and the team, thank you. Thank you for what you're doing every day. What New York is trying to do here under Chris's leadership has never been done anywhere else in the country. We are the first state that is really investing in achieving equity and how this industry has rolled out. Every other state paid lip service to that. Every other state talked about achieving equity. They all failed. Every one of them has failed.

We are the first state that's putting resources on the table that's designed a program with the explicit goal of impact in the communities who are brutalized in the so-called war on drugs, giving those same communities a chance to achieve some economic empowerment as we roll out this industry. And that is really hard. It is going to be really hard under the best of circumstances. It will be impossible if we have 1,400 unlicensed retailers in New York City. That equity play will not succeed. And we have got to act. We have not succeeded yet. The sheriff has led I think hundreds of enforcement actions at this point, and we thank you for that. And you've been seizing product and you've been levying fines, and the stores are still there. Why is that? They're making so much money that they are seeing the lost product and the fines they're paying as just a cost of doing business. And they're continuing to operate.

Now this strategy of taking their leases, that's at a whole nother level. And we know from more difficult times in the seventies, eighties, and nineties, that actually works. And I do believe this will work. So I commend the entire team for taking this step. This also matters to consumers. As Chris said, if you're buying from an illicit operator, you have no idea what you're putting in your body. You really don't. You are taking a risk. And as for young people, judge, I think you described bubblegum flavor, maybe cotton candy flavor. I've seen cocoa puff flavor. Who are those meant to sell to? We all know. Those are deliberately targeting kids and kids are buying from those stores. Make no mistake. There are people under 21 who are in our city who are buying from those illicit stores. That's not happening in the licensed dispensaries.
Finally, this is also a problem for neighborhoods because as the mayor mentioned, these are magnets for robberies. They have so much cash on hand, potentially tens of thousands of dollars of cash on hand. And so they are targets and that is making neighborhoods less safe. So for all of these reasons, we have to act. I am very proud of this team, this coalition that's come together. This is really important and I'm looking forward to us getting this done. Thank you everybody. Thank you.

District Attorney Bragg: Thank you, Mr. Borough President. So who better to end with than our Council member? We are on the Upper West side for a reason. Council Member Brewer, I think the borough president said, "Raising hell." Certainly you've been leading on this issue and we've seen what you've done up and down the Upper West Side. So the tireless councilwoman, Gale Brewer.

City Council Member Gale Brewer: Thank you very much D.A. Bragg and for your amazing work and your staff. And I want to thank the mayor. The mayor, you're wonderful. But you know who's even better? Is Sheriff Miranda, he is fabulous. Just want to let you know. I am delighted to be at Goddard Riverside and I want to echo what the borough president has said about Rod Jones. It's great to be here. So the reason that I became involved in this is that if you walk around from 54th to 108th Street, I started to see these pop up — smoke shops. And so we sent out interns. I'm known as an intern queen. We have a lot of interns. And so they went from 54th last year to 108th Street, and they found 61, and now they're 63 smoke shops. I swear there were only six or seven a year before.

And about half of them, we think at that moment last year, probably more now we're selling illegally. I must admit, I wanted to see. So I go into a smoke shop around midnight on 86th Street. There's a woman sitting there with her friend and I'm like, "What in hell's name am I going to say? Because I don't know what to say." So I said, "My bones hurt," because I'm old. And she said, "What do you need?" So I knew that meant that there was something under the counter. That's pretty common for all of these. And then in December, we sent the results of our survey to the administration and we asked for enforcement. And I want to say again, thank you very much to Sheriff Miranda because he came to our district. And we went in one day, we went to three different shops.

It was very interesting because you go to one shop. All of a sudden, all the other shops in the area are closed for lunch because the person who is in that shop knows all the other shops and they didn't want to get busted. So they all closed. Well, in two shops in particular, thanks very much not only to the amazing staff of the sheriff, but also to Chris's shop state cannabis, those two staff members, and there were about 10 people, worked really carefully to do two things: One to take out all of the illegal merchandise. And of course, it's not only the cannabis. It's also cigarettes from North Carolina that are absolutely no stamp whatsoever. And so many cartoons, just what you said. Not only bubblegum and cotton candy, but cartoons obviously, to sell to kids advertised as cartoons. Potato chips and chocolate candy, I don't know how long had been there. There was no date of when they were no longer any good. They've been there forever.

So the issue was those two staff members worked and brought out in one case about 18 carefully marked bags. In another case, about 20 carefully marked bags of illegal product. And I also want to thank, Mr. Mayor, Consumer and Worker Protection because they had also been there, trying a few days earlier to make sure that they had summonses. Then of course after all of that, and the sheriff has managed to making sure that everything was properly marked, the next day, because one of these shops, we went to Zaza Waza Smoke Shop right near here, 87th Street. They were open the next day. All of the product was back on the shelf. And so the question is, thank you everybody here, the mayor and the district attorney, because we do need to think of what we're going to do with the owners I think of these shops, because we cannot deal with 1,400 in this way.

I'm a true believer, as everyone here is, in making sure that the legal shops that have gone through the state process have a chance of making it. And I believe even down in The Village, the ones that are near Housing Works, there are 11 illegal shops right near there. So we have to make sure that these illegal shops do not exist because the legal ones need to make it. And second, the schools. I have many high schools in my district. We all have high schools. All my colleagues, mayor, everybody else. High schools and the kids are vaping. And it is not good for the kids. It's not good for academics, not good for our city. And I saw underage kids. They looked like they were 12 the other day in Zaza Waza.

So it's on all levels a really bad thing. Also, some of these smoke shops are going within 500 feet of a high school and a school and 200 feet of faith-based. And you know what? No liquor store does that. No restaurant does that sells liquor. They know not to do this, but these shops just do it. So I'm here to say thank you because the process of giving summonses, which the sheriff does so articulate and does so well, I want to add what the mayor said. Every time we're with the sheriff, he talks wonderfully to the owners and the merchants. Usually, it's somebody who's in their twenties, who is not the owner, always polite. We're not after incarceration. We're after this is not legal. We're not after incarceration and he makes that very clear.

But if we go the oath route, which is the administrative way where the summonses need to be responded, it's a very long process. They have 90 days to respond. And then of course, the owners of the shop can make that even longer. So thank you Mr. District Attorney for finding another way to close down these damn smoke shops. Thank you.

District Attorney Bragg: Thank you, Council Member Brewer. I just wanted to end on a note of gratitude for all of our other Council members. I acknowledged them at the beginning, but just wanted to do it again. Council Members Bottcher, Rivera, Marte, and Abreu, who are on the front lines fighting these smoke shops in their districts. This is a borough wide initiative. We're all locking arms on this and I thank them for that. And I also wanted to again, thank my team and pass on all the praise who was given to me too. The career lawyers in my office who are going to be doing all the work on this, A.D.A.s Robin McCabe, Rick Costello, and Gary Galperin.

Question: How are you? The question comes to mind here, is the city, is your office prepared to take 400 some shops to court, go through eviction proceedings that can often get complicated? You'll have to prove the landlord knew that illegal behavior was happening. Is there the capacity in your office in the city to take hundreds of shops to court or is this just blustering?

District Attorney Bragg: Well, the first hope is that putting people on notice as we're doing today in this fashion, those commercial landlords, that they will heed that warning. And then after that, this is what we do. We enforce the law every day ably through 500 career prosecutors, and so we will do what we do on other matters. We'll look at the data, we'll look at the evidence, we'll look at where things are most acute. Council Member Brewer mentioned the cluster around the two that are operating legally. That area certainly is a primary concern. Other clusters we'll look at, the mayor mentioned, as I think our borough president, the magnet for other criminal activity, the robberies we've seen. So this is what we do in the New York County D.A.'s office, so those are the kind of issues and considerations we'll look at to do priorities.

Question: Just reading between the lines there, it sounds like you need to prioritize cases. You're not going to take everyone into court.

District Attorney Bragg: Well, we're certainly not going to go in alphabetical order. What we do, and I don't mean to be coy about that, we do this on every issue whether it's the coordination that the mayor and the N.Y.P.D. and I have been doing on guns. We're looking at those few who are harming the most of us. We're strategic, we are smart and we are targeted, and we're going to bring that same rigor to bear to this issue.

Question: This is a question for everyone who feels most comfortable answering it. You guys raised the issue of the N.Y.P.D. testing some of the seized marijuana. I'm wondering if somebody could tell me, what substances are you finding some of the ceased marijuana's adulterated with? Mr. Mayor, you mentioned fentanyl?

Mayor Adams: Yeah, we'll do that. Chief Maddrey was going to be here but he responded to this issue, cause that's a great question. We'll give a list of what we are finding and what they are mixed with, if it is fentanyl or others. So I'll have the N.Y.P.D. give a list of what we're finding in it. We'll get that to you today.

Question: Thank you. For the mayor or the D.A. or whomever wants to answer. I'm just curious, what took so long? Because this issue has been a persistent and growing problem for over a year. So what took so long to get to this point where you decided to leverage your authority to pressure the landlord? And then how soon could the city theoretically begin eviction proceedings?

District Attorney Bragg: So the work has been going on previously. I think you heard the Council member and others talk about the great work that the sheriff's been doing. I had, in my opening remarks, statistics about seizures and the work that the N.Y.P.D. has been doing. And so as with all issues that are developing, you start with some tools and then you pan out a bit. We think this is a tool that at this moment is one that can be particularly impactful. So there has been work that's been done. That work won't stop. We'll add this to that and we think together, the totality of the coordination, the partnership you've heard about will really move the needle.

Question: And what about when evictions can begin?

District Attorney Bragg: So as with all litigations and all initiatives of this, it's going to be very fact-borne. So we start today. I'll say my hope is to not have to bring a matter, but hopefully the commercial landlords will understand that they've been put on notice, understand what we've laid out in the statute and will want to get compliant. Those that aren't, we will continue to do some education and then we'll move forward, as I said, to the last set of questions in a strategic manner.

Question: Is there any consequence for landlords who don't comply or businesses who just simply move to another location? We saw this in the late '80s with laundromats that were selling cannabis.

District Attorney Bragg: Well, it's an eviction proceeding so the relief within the lawsuit itself would be from that premises. But as you see from just the coordinated effort here, we're not trying to move people from one location to another. We're trying to help this nascent industry and all the principles that undergird it stand up and flourish.

Question: Thank you. A couple of questions. This applies to Manhattan only obviously. For the mayor, can you talk about how this might set a precedent citywide?

Council Member Brewer: (Inaudible.)

Mayor Adams: In spite of the ill-informed belief that Manhattan is… All the boroughs matter and because of the uniqueness of what the district attorney is doing in our routine briefing with the other district attorneys, we're going to use this as an indicator of what the other counties are doing, because they all think outside the box. And so it is important to use what the D.A. is doing here. They share information, they share best practices. We're all in one city and we are going to really roll out and now brief and share what the district attorney's doing here.

But also, we can't underestimate the power of what the corporation counsel is doing. She looked at this, and her team, and she told me there's another tool we can use in our toolbox and we want to go after using our tools as well. And then we may have to look at the laws and see what our strengths are. After someone ignores the request to evict and remove, how do we use it to go after either having extensive fines or take action to remove their property? These are laws on the books where we're not going to allow people to weigh how much money they're making, how much the fines are, and saying these are the costs of doing business. That can't happen.

Question: We did have — and this might be for Mr. Alexander or not, whoever wants to jump in — we did talk with a smoke shop that is openly selling illegal marijuana in the West Village and they said, "Look, we need more licenses. We're all selling. We want to sell legally." But what can the state do to increase the number of licenses to make this work for everyone? Any response?

Alexander: Yeah. We've been rolling out our licenses but we are doing so in a way that the law dictates, making sure that those who've been impacted have an opportunity to go first. But we're also trying to build. This is a heavily regulated industry. Everything from making sure that we're tracking products from seed to sale, making sure that we're dictating what type of consumer education has to be made available at the storefront. We are doing a lot to make sure this is a well-regulated market, and so to folks who are going now and asking the question, why not just give us a license? Well, you've obviously demonstrated your ability to maintain compliance and so that's a criteria of examining whether or not someone should get a license. So we agree, we've got to keep going. We've been at this now for a year and we've been rolling out our program while folks have seen the two dispensaries.

We've issued 300 licenses. We've also drafted regulations, built up an agency and we've been running across the state educating folks about these opportunities that are coming. And so yes, we need more licenses. Yes, we need to roll out more dispensaries. I truly believe as much as this coordinated effort has to happen, as much as we have to keep seizing, as much as we have to go after landlords, we also need to create and open more regulated shops. And I want to just point out — you all will see, and we've talked about this previously — a verification tool, a big sticker on the front of those legal shops that lets you know that this business is properly licensed by the state and is selling products that have gone through our supply chain, including our testing and other regulatory requirements.

So we know that by opening more shops, we'll also help tamper down this illicit activity. Let me be clear. Every state that has legalized has had some form of proliferation. Because this is New York City, it's particularly bad because this is the city, this is the center of the world. And so that is a thing that's going to happen. At the same time, as we continue to roll out this market as well as taking these necessary enforcement actions, that's the kind of recipe that we need in order to really deter consumers from going to illicit markets and to these illicit shops, and to make sure that these business operators don't want to open up anymore.

Question: So the first question I have is in terms of the shops that are being targeted, prioritized for legal action, can you be a bit more specific about whether you're targeting ones that have been proven to be selling to minors, whether it's shops that opened up recently versus long standing convenience stores that happen to start selling weed because everyone else is doing it. Is there any sort of determination in terms of that or is it just the geographic area?

District Attorney Bragg: So I think you touched upon some of the considerations. I think I touched upon them earlier. Geography is one because they impact on the licensed businesses, sales to minor, if we know of adulterated products, the way in which they respond to our letter. So all of those are considerations. It's, as we lawyers would say, a totality of the circumstances test. We take all of that into account and then we make priority decisions.

Question: I wonder if the corporation counsel can tell us the locations of the places that you served with notices, and were they actually closed down? Can they reopen once they've gotten this notice of nuisance?

Hinds-Radix: No, I cannot give you those locations, but what we've done in this nuisance abatement is that the law does not allowing you to do an ex parte action. So what we've done is we've served the papers, we've asked the court to give us a specific date, and when we received that date, we are serving the documents and asking that the owners or whomever get the papers served on them, that they come to court and that they are heard.

Question: So they're open right now and doing business?

Hinds-Radix: Yes.

Question: So the purpose of this was to do what?

Hinds-Radix: The purpose of the nuisance abatement is to serve them. They have to be served with notice.

Question: And how long will it take before you can actually bring them to court?

Hinds-Radix: I do not know the exact date. We could provide you with that but the court has served when we filed the papers today, we have not yet been given a court date.

Question: And it's specifically the property owners that are being served, right? Or is it also the store owners. Is it specifically the landlords of the properties where the stores are that are being served?

Hinds-Radix: The people in the stores who were selling the contraband are being served.

Question: For the mayor. When you were a police officer, did you make any arrests for conduct that's now legal, and do you regret that? The same question for the district attorney. When you were a prosecutor, when you were a line prosecutor, did you prosecute anyone for conduct that's now legal and how do you feel about that?

Mayor Adams: No, no. I don't recall making any marijuana arrests, and what was happening during that time which was really suspect. In fact, I was extremely vociferous about addressing… we were stopping young people, we were telling them to empty their pockets and once they took the marijuana out of their pockets, it was in public view and escalated to an arrest. So while it was in their pockets, it was treated differently and I just didn't believe in that. I thought it was targeting the young people and I thought it was unacceptable. And as a police officer, I was extremely clear that I thought this was a violation and it was an abuse of how we should have been carrying out our laws.

Question: So when that would happen, if someone would take out marijuana from his or her pocket, you wouldn't arrest that person?

Mayor Adams: No, I would never put myself in the position to tell them to take the marijuana out of their pockets.

Question: And Mr. Bragg?

District Attorney Bragg: That's not a part of my practice. So I was at the New York State Attorney General's office, we certainly didn't do that type of prosecution. When I was in the Southern District of New York, these types of prosecutions are not ones that the office was doing. What I did do and work on, which we're looking at, is really following the money upstream, so a money laundering case of people who were wholesale business owners who were laundering it for a violent operation. And we see that blueprint. We're employing that kind of strategy. Following the money, following the contraband in our gun practice and support our other violent crime enforcement in the D.A.'s office.

Question: Mr. Mayor, you mentioned that some of this illegal cannabis could be laced with fentanyl. Do you know, and I know this is kind of a follow-up, but do you know of any specific examples of that being the case?

Mayor Adams: No. We'll find out. I'm going to have the Police Department, based on their testing, the items they tested, to see if we have a list of what the items are laced with, if at all.

Question: Thank you. And then secondly, when was the last time you consumed a cannabis product and where did you get it from?

Mayor Adams: When was the last time?

Question: You consumed cannabis?

Mayor Adams: I just pass by the places you cop from. I don't go inside and purchase myself. (Laughter.) Let's do a few off-topic. Okay, we're going to spare y'all. Unless your off-topic, it's for the DA or anyone else that's here. We're going to spare you having to go through.

Question: I've got one for the D.A.

Mayor Adams: Okay. One for the D.A.?

Question: Thanks. One on, one off actually. Would it be your hope (inaudible) any of these that end up with an eviction proceeding would be excluded from getting a license, a cannabis license? And the off-topic. Mark Pomerantz portrays it as altruism for exposing your decision or indecision about going forward with a prosecution. Was that the righteous course for him to take? And is your office considering after your letter decided to choose (inaudible)?

District Attorney Bragg: So I defer to our state regulator in terms of that all. I do think he hit it at an answer. He said compliance now is something that they're taking into consideration and I think that makes sense, but certainly defer to them.


Mayor Adams: Just showed your street credibility from the streets to the suite, you know? Marcia.

Question: How are you doing?

Mayor Adams: Quite well.

Question: So, your office has prepared a budget memo that indicates that the state budget has numerous hundreds of millions, if not billions of dollars of unfunded mandates. Everything from the M.T.A. to charter schools to migrants. If you can't get the legislature to roll back some of these unfunded mandates, will you have to do massive cuts to services and what would be effected?

Mayor Adams: I had a conversation with the executive chamber this morning to go through the budget. There's some good items in the budget, but the fiscal aspects are concerning to us. And I believe that those of you who have covered this administration, you would somewhat agree that fiscal prudence is the hallmark of this administration. We did a P.E.G. not once, but twice. We've made some tough choices around how we use taxpayers dollars. Some people point to the fact that we have an $8 billion rainy day fund, but we have to keep in account, we have union contracts to settle, we have a real issue with our healthcare stabilization fund. There's some real issues. We made some smart, tough decisions and we balanced the budget.

We turned it over to the City Council and there's a potentiality that we will have to find $4 billion more. And so where would that leave us? And we shared those concerns and we're going to continue to speak with the governor and her team. We just believe that New York City, we have really done our share of being fiscally responsible and ensuring that we take on the surprise additive that we have to endure.

Question: That $4 billion, where will it leave you? What will you have to cut if you have $4 billion in unanticipated costs?

Mayor Adams: We are looking deeply and every New Yorker would feel the pain of that.

Question: Mr. Mayor. So last month…

Mayor Adams: Bernadette.

Question: How are you?

Mayor Adams: How are you?

Question: Good. Last month you said that the migrant crisis would cost the city $2 billion, but yesterday you said that it would cost $4 billion. So, I'm wondering what changed with that estimate. And then also separately, what do you say to critics that have accused you of aiding and abetting migrants who want to illegally cross into Canada?

Mayor Adams: Okay, I didn't say $4 billion. $1.4 billion this fiscal year, $2.8 the next. Those are the numbers. $1.4 this, $2.8 the next. And those critics, you know, New York, 8.5 million people, 35 million opinions. So, those critics who say we are aiding and abetting, I don't know where they're getting that from. We are not telling anyone to go to any country or state. People who arrived here and already had other destinations in mind were basically compelled to come to New York and when they're part of our intake process and we speak with people and they say their desire is to go somewhere else. There's a host of partnerships from the Catholic Charities to others that have been coordinating with people to get to their final destination.

So, there's no coordinated effort. We don't have a website, we don't have a recruitment campaign. We're not telling people go to another country. What we will do, we are going to have a destabilization, or what I should say, is a decompression strategy. This is a statewide issue and we've called on the governor and others as we called on the country. This is a national problem and there should be a decompression strategy at the border and we are going to figure out a decompression strategy for our city.

Question: Now the two figures that you just mentioned does add up to $4 billion now, so what went into that assessment?

Mayor Adams: Right. Well, I was never an expert in math as you know.

Question: You've been to the shelters, you've slept at the terminal. What is the taking up the bulk of the city's cost? And again, why is it $4 billion? Comptroller Lander said in three years it would cost the city $3 billion. So what's going into the city…

Mayor Adams: We were constantly stating to everyone who asked, the targets were moving. We were trying to get the final numbers. And the reason we did that is so we won't be here. If we would've given you $300 million last year and then we tell you $1.4 million, then argue with, "Well why did you say $300 million?" That's why we kept saying we need to look at these numbers. People were still coming in, we're still getting a heavy influx. Those numbers may grow also. So, we know that this is a moving target. There's a lot of uncertainty. And so when Jacques from the Budget Office was able to come up with some good numbers that we can turn over, we did just that. We were unclear of the exact numbers because it kept moving. And so now we at a place where we're comfortable of saying $1.4 billion.

Question: Mayor, back to this memo. It also spoke about how the governor's proposal for migrants only recovers about 29 percent of shelter costs. Are you frustrated with the state that they still haven't spent as much as you would like on this migrant crisis here in the city? And the second part of this question, we know how Albany works. Who are you planning to meet with next week for Tin Cup Day to sort of help negotiate some of these unfunded mandates?

Mayor Adams: The plan was based on the budget was this 30 percent, 30 percent, 30 percent split. Where we would pick up 30, the state picks up 30, and the feds picks up 30. Hakeem Jeffries is not the majority leader, he's the minority leader. If we look at the history of a Republican-controlled Congress who, they don't want to do comprehensive immigration reform. If we are counting on that 30 percent split, that just doesn't add up. So, we need to make sure that we have a foolproof plan to address this national issue and we don't see the help coming from a Republican-controlled Congress. Senator Schumer and Congressman Jeffries was able to get the $800 million plus in the omnibus bill. We don't know if we are going to get more help from a Republican-controlled Congress.

Question: And the second part of that question, just next week, when you're in Albany, who are you planning to be with? How are you going to negotiate that?

Mayor Adams: Yes. We have been having ongoing conversations with a lot of the electeds up there. There's some great allies up there that believe in common sense budgeting and we have been having great conversations. I'm going to sit down and continue to talk with the leaders in both chambers. Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins in the Senate and Leader Carl Heastie in the Assembly. And to show their members who represent New York, show them this is going to impact the basic services in your districts. That is crucial to show we are in this together and those who represent the city, they must be aware of that. And I'm troubled that out of the $500 million that we are supposed to pay… Not one year. The state is going to do $300 million one time. We are told to pay half a billion dollars forever. No other municipality in the state has been asked to do anywhere near that. Only New York City.

Question: Mr. Mayor, on Madison Square Garden, the city has a big decision coming up. The permit for it to operate expires this summer. James Dolan has been making a lot of provocative moves. I wonder how you envision this permitting process going. Would you see some sort of way to incentivize Mr. Dolan to move Madison Square Garden?

Mayor Adams: I'm not sure what provocative moves he has been doing. Things that happen within Madison Square Garden and how they carry out their procedures is not going to get in the way of negotiating the best deal for the city. Madison Square Garden is a real win for us. It is very much in our D.N.C. plan. It was clear that being able to have an arena that size is allowing us to do some great things. We have our sports teams here, events here. We are going to factor in the benefit of the city in our decision, not of what he's doing and how he runs his mannerisms inside the Garden. That doesn't play into it at all.

Question: You like where it is now?

Mayor Adams: Master Square Garden? Yes, yes, yes, I do. I can't quite understand why it's called Square. Maybe we can rename it to Madison Round Garden, but I think it's a great location. 34th Street, Penn Station. People don't have to drive in. They could use public transportation. You have the 7 line, the A line. It's just a good place for it to be. I'm happy with it being there.

Question: What's the latest on the officer who was shot in Brooklyn over the weekend? And has the N.Y.P.D. released his name yet? If not, I'm wondering why.

Mayor Adams: Not of my knowledge and the releasing of the name, the police commissioner, you can communicate, and she'll make that determination. We are prayerful. We are hoping that he's able to pull through. The family's advised on whatever medical decision they want to make. But we're hopeful. This was a cowardly act where… I just want to take my hat off to those offices who worked around the clock, did not sleep. Great police and detective work, and we were able to apprehend this individual with an extensive criminal record. Recidivism.


Mayor Adams: You give Dana two questions? Interesting.

Question: To follow up on the question regarding Madison Square Garden, you do have a lever at your disposal to exact some sort of concession from M.S.G. with its operating permit. Is there anything you want them to do in exchange for letting them continue to operate and make a ton of money there?

Mayor Adams: Yes, we're going to be a hard negotiator for the people of the city to get the best deal for the people of the city. And no way am I saying that we are not going to do that. Any use of city resources, we're going to be a hard negotiator, but it's not going to be based on the win loss record of the New York Knicks. It's going to be based on what's the best deal for the city.

Question: Mr. Mayor, you're going to the State of the Union tonight. Well, is this your first time, first of all?

Mayor Adams: Yes.

Question: And second, are you planning on having any conversations with the White House about migrant funding?

Mayor Adams: Every time I see the White House, I talk about migrant funding. We are going to continue to press that this is a national issue and we must come up with a national solution.

Question: Mr. Mayor, given that New York City is paying for transportation providers to the Canadian border, is your criticism of Colorado Governor Polis hypocritical? Why or why not? And have you reached out to Canadian officials to coordinate this issue?

Mayor Adams: Okay, so we should be clear because I don't want it to be misprinted. We are not coordinating with anyone to go to Canada. We are not doing that. There's no role that the city is playing to tell migrants to go to Canada. Part of our intake process is to speak with people, to find out their needs, find out… To do an evaluation.

Their determination — as I stated over and over again in every presser that we sent out — the re-ticketing process is part of our process of how we are going to assist migrants. Migrants were forced to come to New York. Many of them did not want to come to New York. The substantial number stayed here, but many did not want to come here. They wanted to go somewhere else. They were not given that option. And so unlike other municipalities, we are speaking to people, interacting with them and saying, what are your needs? "Hey, we have family somewhere else. That's where we want to go." We want to help them connect with their family members.

Question: Okay. Mayor Adams, thanks.

Mayor Adams: Thank you.

Question: Do you have any more information about the cough shot in the 47?

Mayor Adams: No, I'm going to reach out to (inaudible.)

Question: Do you support federal marijuana legalization?

Mayor Adams: Yes.

Media Contact

Web Mail
(718) 403-8097