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NYC Mayor Adams Begins 'Padlock to Protect' Crackdown on Illicit Cannabis

Law enforcement has authority to inspect and lock up businesses caught illegally selling cannabis.

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New York City Mayor Eric Adams 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. 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.

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.

“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.”

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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