In a renewed push to snuff out New York City’s thriving illegal cannabis market, Mayor Eric Adams and Manhattan’s top prosecutor announced Tuesday that they would go after landlords who allow hundreds of illicit shops to operate, the Associated Press reports. Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg said his office has sent notices to more than 400 smoke shops that illegally sell cannabis, warning them of potential eviction proceedings. If shop owners do not close, his office would seek to force property owners to evict the shops. It was the latest effort by authorities to force the closure of illegal dispensaries that could undermine the state’s nascent legal cannabis market, which began rolling out in recent months and is expected to grow as more state-sanctioned shops open. When the state legalized recreational marijuana two years ago, “many people took it that you can just open up a location any way you want,” Adams said.
Unauthorized pot shops have cropped up in droves, operating out in the open — and offering cheaper prices than the legal stores, where products are highly taxed. The number of illegal shops across New York’s five boroughs could exceed 1,200. The illicit stores are cashing in on a lucrative market that the mayor says could reach $1.3 billion, potentially generating $40 million in yearly tax revenues if they are not undercut by illegal offerings. “Marijuana legalization in New York came with rules, and those rules must be respected,” Bragg said. “Instead of respect for the law, we have seen ... the proliferation of storefronts across New York City selling unlicensed, unregulated, untaxed cannabis products.” Bragg is prepared to use his authority “to commence eviction proceedings of commercial tenants who are engaged in illegal trade or business,” adding that prosecutors within five days of the written notice would “take over such eviction.” The New York Police Department has sued four illicit cannabis shops in Manhattan’s Lower East Side to to shut them under the city’s nuisance and abatement law, as well as new state marijuana rules. The city acted after a decoy operation found the shops sold cannabis products to people under 21, the legal age to buy marijuana under state law.