Mayor Adams Initiates Operation to Shut Down Unlicensed Smoke and Cannabis Shops Across Five Boroughs

May 7, 2024

City Establishes Formal Rules Allowing Local Law Enforcement Agencies to Padlock
Unlicensed Smoke and Cannabis Shops 

Announcement Follows Adams Administration Successfully Securing Local Authority From
Albany to Enforce Against Unlicensed Smoke and Cannabis Shop

“Operation Padlock to Protect” Kicks Off Against Businesses Unlawfully Selling Cannabis

NEW YORK – New York City Mayor Eric Adams today announced the start of a five-borough operation — that will accelerate in the coming weeks — to shut down unlicensed smoke and cannabis shops in the City of New York. After Mayor Adams successfully advocated for and municipalities were given the regulatory authority by the state to finally shut down these illegal shops plaguing city streets last month, the city established formal rules allowing the New York City’s Sheriff Office — along with other local law enforcement agencies — to padlock smoke and cannabis shops without a license. This morning, Mayor Adams, New York City Sheriff Anthony Miranda, the New York City Police Department (NYPD), and the New York City Department of Consumer and Worker Protection (DCWP) kicked off “Operation Padlock to Protect,” giving law enforcement the ability to inspect smoke and cannabis shops and padlock those caught unlawfully selling cannabis.

With new enforcement powers and legal authority granted by the state, the Adams administration is making it clear that any operator acting illegally will face swift consequences to protect the city’s children, improve quality of life, and facilitate a safe and thriving legal cannabis market.

“Today, our administration is delivering on a promise to shut down unlicensed smoke and cannabis shops, protect our young people, and ensure that the future of legal cannabis burns bright in New York City,” said Mayor Adams. “Thanks to Governor Kathy Hochul and our partners in the state Legislature, New York City is now using the full force of the law across every borough to padlock and protect our streets. Legal cannabis remains the right choice for our city, but to those who choose to break the law — we will shut you down.”

“The proliferation of unlicensed smoke and cannabis shops in New York City is one of the biggest quality of life issues facing New Yorkers,” said Chief Advisor to the Mayor Ingrid P. Lewis-Martin. “These shops are especially dangerous to children, and have been a major impediment to the financial stability of legal cannabis dispensaries. Thanks to our partnership with the governor’s office and the New York state Legislature, those unlicensed shops’ days are numbered. We now have the ability to implement procedures needed to permanently close illegal weed shops. Soon, New Yorkers will be rid of these bad actors.”

“The Adams administration's commitment to close unlicensed smoke and cannabis shops underscores our dedication to protecting our communities and upholding the rule of law,” said First Deputy Mayor Sheena Wright. “By establishing formal rules allowing local law enforcement to padlock these establishments, we are sending a strong message that illegal operators will be held accountable. This operation is a crucial step towards ensuring a safe and thriving legal cannabis market for all New Yorkers.”

“Protecting the health and safety of our neighbors and our youth is paramount, especially given the proliferation of unlicensed smoke and cannabis shops illegally selling cannabis around our city,” said DCWP Commissioner Vilda Vera Mayuga. “Since the start of the Adams administration, we’ve worked closely with the Sheriff’s Joint Task Force, providing resources to help deliver huge successes. And through DCWP’s own routine enforcement of the state and city’s tobacco and e-cigarette laws, we’ve issued more than 20,000 summonses and closed down 128 illegal retailers. Thank you to Mayor Adams for securing this major victory for the city, ensuring that we have the authority to tackle the ongoing threat of unlicensed smoke and cannabis shops.”

“The New York City Sheriff’s Office is proud to lead the city in padlocking the unlicensed businesses selling cannabis that have taken advantage of the groundbreaking opportunity of the legal cannabis market,” said Sheriff Miranda. “We want to thank Governor Hochul, Mayor Adams, and all of the elected officials for their tireless effort in expanding the cannabis enforcement authority so we can take back control of our city. We fully embrace the mayor’s vision of a multi-agency response and joint collaboration between all enforcement agencies, and we will continue to lead those efforts to protect the health and safety of our communities.”

“Cannabis NYC’s mission to help our city become a global leader for the legal industry is clear and that includes safeguarding the integrity of New York’s developing cannabis market by clearing out opportunists operating illegal and unlicensed stores,” said Cannabis NYC Founding Director Dasheeda Dawson. “We’re committed to upholding the principles of equity and fairness established with the Marihuana Regulation & Taxation Act, ensuring that those who have invested in our legal industry thus far are protected and given every opportunity for their small business to thrive.”

The legalization of cannabis has allowed a new economy to emerge in New York state while addressing the harmful impact of the “War on Drugs” on Black and brown New Yorkers. However, for New York City’s new cannabis economy and justice-involved businesses to thrive, the city and state must protect the development of the legal market. With the newly granted local authority, the Adams administration is executing a five-borough strategy to finally end this public health and safety issue.

Prior to securing municipal enforcement powers against unlicensed smoke and cannabis shops, the Adams administration used every tool available to protect young people from dangerous, illegal cannabis and tobacco products, while sending a clear message that anyone helping these illegal, unlicensed shops to spread throughout the five boroughs will be held accountable. Coordinating with both city and state authorities, the Adams administration formed the New York City Sheriff’s Office Joint Compliance Task Force to Address Illegal Smoke Shops. This task force conducted enforcement against unlicensed establishments selling cannabis, cannabis-infused edibles, illegal vaping products, illegal cigarettes, and other illegal tobacco products, and, since forming, has imposed almost $108 million in penalties — including an estimated $33 million in illegal products seized and over $75 million in civil penalties issued — and conducted more than 2,100 compliance and intelligence inspections.

Additionally, the task force sent letters to 603 landlords and owners of buildings across the five boroughs warning that they could be legally liable for the continued unlicensed sale of cannabis or tobacco products by their tenants. Between last summer and last month, the city filed two lawsuits in federal and state court against a total of 15 e-cigarette distributors that operate as the upstream suppliers of illegal, exotic-flavored, disposable e-cigarettes to the same retail vape and smoke shops, as well as convenience stores that are the target of “Operation Padlock to Protect.”



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