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Weed is legal in New York, but thousands of shops are selling it illegally. Here's the latest plan to shut them down

New York announces plan to lock up illegal pot shops on eve of 4/20
New York announces plan to lock up illegal pot shops on eve of 4/20 02:06

NEW YORK -- On the eve of 4/20, Gov. Kathy Hochul unveiled a new plan to shut down thousands of illegal marijuana shops operating in New York. 

A new law in her state budget will allow law enforcement to lock them up, literally, with padlocks.

"My friends, the insanity stops right now," said Hochul. 

Hochul and state lawmakers have been under intense pressure to close unlicensed shops popping up across the state, particularly in New York City, since marijuana sales were legalized

"Illegal cannabis shops, this is your warning. You will be locked out if you attempt to continue to sell illegal items," said New York City Mayor Eric Adams. 

Removing or damaging a padlock would be a misdemeanor. 

Slow rollout opened window for illegal shops to thrive

The popularity of illegal smoke shops has been compounded by the rollout of the state's cannabis program, which was slow to issue licenses, and the fact that what they sell is often cheaper because they don't pay state sales tax. 

"They got a head start. There's a lot of them out there. Meanwhile we're pushing and pushing and pushing to get more legal licenses in the pipeline approved and get more legal shops open," said Hochul. 

At last count, there were about 2,000 illegal stores in New York City, compared to about 100 legal ones.   

"We have a lot of catch-up to do and the illegal shops will not disappear overnight, but New Yorkers eventually will see a change in their communities," said Hochul. 

Illegal smoke shops attracting students

New York City Council Member Gale Brewer mounted an intense campaign to get the illegal shops in her Manhattan district closed.

"You're finding high school students in these shops, and then going to high school and vaping, and it's outrageous they pick locations within feet of a high school," said Brewer. 

In addition to authorizing officials to padlock stores, the state could fine landlords up to $50,000 for renting their property to illegal cannabis shops. 

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