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New York ramping up efforts against illegal marijuana dispensaries

  • / Updated:
  • Staff Report 

New York state officials plan to request additional resources in the next budget to combat the proliferation of illegal marijuana dispensaries.

As the Office of Cannabis Management (OCM) works to increase the number of legal retailers, which currently stands at 27 out of over 460 licensed, the state is grappling with thousands of unregulated stores that have sprung up across the state. OCM Executive Director Chris Alexander acknowledged to lawmakers the need to expand the legal retail footprint to outpace the illicit market.

Amid concerns over the slow legalization process and the rapid growth of illegal dispensaries, OCM officials defended their efforts, citing about 300 raids conducted on unauthorized sellers since receiving increased enforcement powers in the last budget. However, only 16 of those stores have completed hearings, with a temporary halt in additional proceedings. Alexander admits efficiency improvements are necessary, including legislative support for inspections and legal retailer assistance. Senate Cannabis Subcommittee Chair Jeremy Cooney emphasized the urgency of opening more licensed shops to overturn the state’s rocky marijuana rollout.

The state faces challenges in enforcing penalties against rogue dispensaries, with some re-opening even after being shut down. The situation is complicated by jurisdictional issues over who manages penalties, with law enforcement and officials indicating the need for more resources in the forthcoming budget to tackle the problem effectively. Concerns also rise over public safety due to potentially contaminated products from illegal dispensaries, as well as financial woes for farmers holding unsold, potency-diminishing cannabis from last season, now exceeding 250,000 pounds statewide.