New York’s Unlicensed Marijuana Shops Present Enforcement Challenges

New York lawmakers who championed the 2021 law legalizing the sale of marijuana are now facing the consequences of its shortcomings. While the law failed to include tough enforcement measures to discourage illicit peddling, lawmakers are frustrated by the proliferation of unlicensed pot shops in their districts.

During a recent legislative hearing, lawmakers complained about the prevalence of gray market pot stores, with Sen. Brad Hoylman-Sigal listing nearly a dozen illegal shops in his district and expressing concern over the public health impact, particularly on young people. Sen. Liz Krueger, another proponent of the law, also expressed frustration about unlicensed pot shops in her district on the Upper East Side.

Opponents of marijuana legalization were quick to place blame on the lawmakers themselves, arguing that they failed to address enforcement when approving the law. Assemblyman Sam Pirozzolo stated that pro-pot lawmakers didn’t want to deal with enforcement, resulting in the current situation.

To address the issue, lawmakers are calling for a faster process to shut down unlicensed shops. However, the state’s chief regulator for cannabis admitted that enforcement is a work in progress and additional resources are needed to effectively combat the problem.

In an effort to crack down on unlicensed pot shops, fines of up to $20,000 per day have been approved, and the mayor has established the Cannabis NYC Interagency Enforcement Task Force. However, lawmakers and officials still feel that more needs to be done, including increased involvement from the NYPD, amending the law to facilitate prosecution, and granting additional enforcement authority to agencies such as the city Sheriff’s office.

As of now, there are only 26 licensed cannabis shops in the state, and lawmakers recognize the need for further fine-tuning of the law to address unintended consequences and enhance enforcement efforts.


1. How many licensed cannabis shops are there in New York?
Currently, there are 26 licensed cannabis shops across the state, with 11 located in New York City.

2. What are the concerns regarding unlicensed pot shops?
Lawmakers are concerned about the negative impact on public health, particularly for young people, and the undermining of the legal market.

3. Who is responsible for enforcing regulations on unlicensed shops?
The Office of Cannabis Management and the state Tax Department have the most authority to inspect unlicensed smoke shops, but there is a call for increased involvement from the NYPD and other agencies.

4. What enforcement measures have been taken so far?
Fines of up to $20,000 per day have been approved, and inspections and civil fines have been conducted, amounting to $36 million. However, more comprehensive and efficient enforcement measures are needed.