Former Mayor Mike Bloomberg slammed New York’s marijuana law as a disaster — blaming state legislators for a roll out of cannabis that has helped criminals and hurt kids by making it as “easy to buy an ounce of pot as it is a slice of pizza."
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Bloomberg, who has rarely weighed in on New York issues since leaving City Hall a decade ago, said the law has failed to address enforcement of criminal activity and allowed illegal pot shops to flourish as a result before legal cannabis shops were licensed to open.
“The state took so long to get a licensing operation up and running that entrepreneurs had nearly two years to establish illicit operations — and they took full advantage,” Bloomberg said in his Bloomberg.com column.
He pointed to city estimates that there are nearly 1,500 illegal pot shops across the five boroughs, with many brazenly advertising their illicit sales on their brick-and-mortar storefronts.
“Last year,” Bloomberg said, “illegal vendors did about $2 billion in sales statewide — better than Broadway shows. It’s as easy to buy an ounce of pot as it is a slice of pizza.”
APBloomberg said that it has become too easy for children to buy cannabis products.
He noted the law still makes it illegal to possess more than 3 ounces of marijuana and possession of 8 or more ounces is a felony carrying a prison sentence.
“But one would never know that by looking at all the illegal shops and their advertising. Just think about the signal it sends to criminals that the government is unwilling to crack down on so many storefronts selling drugs illegally — often to children,” Bloomberg said.
He cited data that drug and alcohol incidents in the city’s public schools spiked 29% over the past year.
“That’s especially troubling given the overwhelming scientific evidence that marijuana can harm the brains of young people,” said Bloomberg.
Bloomberg cited another study that said some of the pot weed sold by unlicensed shops was tainted with contaminants such as E coli and salmonella and worried about the addictive and lethal fentanyl being laced with illicit marijuana.
“Voters should demand that New York’s governor and legislature take responsibility for this mess and fix it. Every elected official who voted for legalization and won’t fix the problem has essentially voted to allow illegal stores to sell marijuana to kids — which is disgraceful, and voters shouldn’t forget it,” the former mayor said.
“New York’s experience should be a warning to the nation… The free lunch legislators sought — more tax revenue with no enforcement responsibilities, health risks or youth dangers — was always a fairy tale. Now that it’s gone up in smoke, it’s time to get serious about protecting children.”
The ex-mayor claimed that illegal smoke shops made $2 billion last year.Matthew McDermottBloomberg said that the states should intervene more with the illegal smoke shops.
Former Gov. Andrew Cuomo approved marijuana legalization in 2021. His successor, Gov. Kathy Hochul, has since overseen the slow rollout, with only a handful of licensed pot shots opening amid a massive black pot market.
Asked about Bloomberg’s criticism, Hochul spokeswoman Hazel Crampton-Hays said, “We continue to work with our partners to enforce the law and to explore every possible mechanism available to protect New Yorkers and shut down illicit operators.”
A spokesman for Mayor Adams’ office responded, “The state has laid out a process of obtaining legal cannabis dispensary licenses, and we must make sure they are distributed fairly and equitably. But those cutting the line are hurting hard-working, law-abiding business owners who are following the rules.
“And even more, they are threatening the health and well-being of vulnerable young people and all New Yorkers. Since November, the city’s interagency task force has seized millions of dollars in illicit products and issued hundreds of violations to noncompliant businesses.”