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State official won’t say how many illegal pot shops there are as NYC begins crackdown: ‘Larger than we’d like it to be’

By Social Links for Carl Campanile

Published May 7, 2024, 8:40 p.m. ET





A state cannabis regulator refused to give an estimate of how many illegal pot shops there are in New York while Mayor Adams announced a five-borough “Padlock to Protect” program Tuesday to close down the illicit weed stores.

“It’s much larger than we’d like it to be,” Pascale Bernard, the state Office Cannabis Management’s deputy director of intergovernmental affairs, said during a Tuesday meeting at Queens Borough Hall.

Borough President Donovan Richards then asked for a “guesstimate” on the number of illicit shops that have been the scourge of neighborhoods across the Big Apple and a thorn in the side of the budding legal cannabis market.

“I wouldn’t want to put out a number that is either inflated or deflated,” Bernard said.

“We recognize this is an issue,” she added.


She said a new state law recently approved by Gov. Kathy Hochul and the legislature will make it easier and “turn the tide” against the illegal shops.

Richards was not impressed by the lack of specifics at the meeting that included district managers from the borough’s community boards.

“They should at least have a guesstimate. I was trying to smoke them out,”‘ the borough president quipped.  

Adams and city Sheriff Anthony Miranda said there are about 2,900 suspected stores illegally selling marijuana in the city.

By comparison, 55 of the 119 licensed shops statewide are in the city.




A state cannabis regulator refused to say how many illegal pot shops there are in New York while Mayor Eric Adams announced a “Padlock to Protect” program to close down illicit weed stores.Michael Appleton/Mayoral Photography Office

More than 20 shops were inspected on Tuesday — including the Bud & Beyond, at 386 Canal St. near West Broadway, and Big City Smoke Shop at 110 Church St.

The sheriff’s office, the NYPD and the Department of Consumer and Worker Production took part in the inspections.

Adams gave a pep talk to the cannabis cops at the city sheriff’s in Long Island City before the raids to stress the importance of the mission, including protecting youths who’ve been targeted by the illegal industry with colorful candy-looking packaging for cannabis edibles.  

“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,” Hizzoner said.



“It’s much larger than we’d like it to be,” Pascale Bernard, the state Office Cannabis Management’s deputy director of intergovernmental affairs, said during a Tuesday meeting at Queens Borough Hall.Michael Appleton/Mayoral Photography Office

“Thanks to Gov. 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.”

Miranda said a majority of the locations visited Tuesday were closed after vast quantities of cannabis and illegal hallucinogens such as the “magic mushroom” Psilocybin were found on the premises.

He said residents as well as the illegal head shops took notice.

“We’ve gotten a great response from the community,” the sheriff said late Tuesday afternoon.

Borough President Donovan Richards then asked for a “guesstimate” on the number of illicit shops that have been the scourge of neighborhoods across the Big Apple and a thorn in the side of the budding legal cannabis market.Michael Appleton/Mayoral Photography Office

“As for the illegal cannabis shops, they know we’re coming. It’s a question of when.”

The new law gives authorities an immediate cease-and-desist and sealing order to keep the illicit shops closed pending an administrative review.

Previously, shops would reopen just days after a raid.

The owners and landlords of the buildings face stiff penalties for refusing to abide by closure orders.


Still, some elected officials and civic leaders said they will oppose the opening of state-licensed cannabis shops until the illegal ones are closed — among them Staten Island Borough President Vito Fossella.

He was skeptical that the crackdown would end the illicit market.

“It is like whack-a-mole; when authorities close one shop, two or three more open to take its place. For the three currently operating legal dispensaries, there are over 100 illegal smoke shops infesting the most frequented corners of Staten Island, especially those frequented by families and schoolchildren,” Fossella said.


“Existing law enforcement resources are not adequate to contain the proliferation of these pot shops, thinly disguised as ‘convenience’ stores or ‘gift’ shops … We propose that the Office of Cannabis Management should cease granting new licenses to cannabis dispensaries until the Sheriff’s Office and other local authorities have padlocked and permanently closed each and every illegal smoke shop on Staten Island.”

Community Board 9 in central Queens covering Kew Gardens, Richmond Hill, Ozone Park and Woodhaven also said it would oppose any licensed weed shops until all the illegal ones have been shut down in the area.

Miranda said the sheriff’s office has a staff of 250 workers but stopped short of saying how many are assigned to cannabis enforcement.

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