New York Daily News: MANHATTAN – More than 600 pounds of weed was confiscated by the New York City Sheriff’s Office and other agencies as part of a recent two-week crackdown on unlicensed pot peddlers across the five boroughs, Mayor Adams announced Thursday.
At a press conference, Adams, Sheriff Anthony Miranda and other city officials touted the pilot effort — which played out in late November and early December — as a critical counterweight against the wave of unlicensed weed that has washed over New York since the state legalized its recreational use in March 2021.
“To those who believe that this is going to become the wild, wild west of cannabis sales, we are saying clearly and loudly: No, it’s not,” Adams told reporters at City Hall.
In addition to the 600 pounds of weed seized, the city issued 500 civil summonses and 66 criminal summonses to dealers of the illicit herb as part of the enforcement program, officials said. The seized bud is worth about $4 million, they added.
Adams brought a few bags of confiscated ganja along with him to the press conference — and lamented that the product often comes in colorful packaging resembling candy and cereal.
He said such packaging appeals to children and suggested the state Legislature may have to amend the law to limit the way weed can be marketed once the legal recreational market gets off the ground.
“This is alarming,” the mayor said, holding up a bright-colored bag of marijuana-infused gummies.
Adams, who was joined by a number of stakeholders from the recreational cannabis industry, said the city’s crackdown is not about stigmatizing weed.
On the contrary, he said rooting out illegal dealers is an important part of ensuring licensed distributors are able to flourish.
“We will not let the economic opportunities that legal cannabis offers be taken for a ride by unlicensed establishments,” he said. “It’s high time that unlicensed stores stopped selling illegal products and comply with the law.”
Adams stressed he’s not looking to take a heavy-handed approach toward enforcement, though.
“Our goal is not to incarcerate,” he said. “It is to confiscate and educate that this is not how it’s going to happen in New York.”
Weed has been legal to consume recreationally in the state since lawmakers decriminalized it last year. But, since the state’s recreational dispensary system has yet to fully launch, sales remain by and large illegal.
Still, tobacco stores, bodegas and even street vendor-style trucks have started selling weed without licenses all over the city — while law enforcement have largely looked the other way due to the legal status of the drug.
An online portal opened this past August for people to apply for legal licenses to open retail pot outlets, a process that’s supposed to be weighted toward applicants with prior marijuana convictions.
The state’s first licensed recreational stores are expected to open their doors later this month — nearly two years after weed was legalized.
Asked if he thinks the lengthy lag between legalization and the launch of the recreational market is to blame for the proliferation of illicit pot stores across the city, Adams demurred.
“I don’t think it has gone wrong,” he said. “We just have to make sure that people understand — educate, confiscate and not incarcerate.”
Adams’ announcement comes as New Yorkers have raised objections to the proliferation of stores selling cannabis in the post-legalization era.
Reporting in the Daily News has revealed the rampant illegal distribution of weed from storefronts dotting the Upper West Side and Chelsea, with similar complaints cropping up in other neighborhoods, too.