Residents, community leaders, police call to stop unlicensed pot shops
Southern Brooklyn residents, police officers and elected officials are calling for the shutdown of allegedly illegally operating and unlicensed marijuana businesses.
U.S. Rep. Nicole Malliotakis held a press conference near Bay Ridge Catholic Academy at Fourth Avenue and 83rd Street on Oct. 28 and talked about the unlawful operation of pot shops that are popping up around Bay Ridge and the city.
“We are here outside of a school, which is very close to an unauthorized marijuana selling shop. There are two in this vicinity not too far away from each other,” she said. “My office has received phone calls from parents who are concerned. It’s inappropriate whether it’s legal or illegal to have a marijuana dispensary so close to a school.”
The Marijuana Regulation & Taxation Act was passed by New York State in March 2021. However, there haven’t been retail licenses issued for recreational dispensaries.
She stated that since no licenses have been issued to date, the stores that are selling these products are doing so illegally and must be stopped.
“We are calling on the city and the mayor to give the NYPD the tools and authorization they need to go in and shut down these shops,” Malliotakis said.
“We’re stuck in a situation where the message is sent to the general public that you’re allowed to smoke weed and you’re allowed to sell it,” said Assemblymember Michael Tannousis. “Now we have a store a few feet away from a school that has put up Halloween decorations. They’re next to a pizzeria where kids after school go and grab something to eat. Marijuana is now easily accessible to the general public illegally as well as to our children. What type of message are we sending to our kids?”
During the 68th Precinct Community Council Meeting Oct. 19, Capt. Andrew Tolson, the precinct’s commander, discussed the concern.
He stated that within the precinct, there are currently 22 smoke shops.
“They have to get the proper licenses,” he said of the store owners. “We don’t want storefronts to be using these smoke shops as a ruse to sell marijuana. I know the marijuana laws have been lessened but you still can’t sell marijuana especially at a storefront. We don’t want to put it in the hands of our kids where they can get right to a smoke shop and buy it.”
He also mentioned that smoke shops throughout the city have been robbed.
That same day, three men robbed a smoke shop on 20th Avenue and 63rd Street in Bensonhurst. NYPD said the men rang the bell at around 12:25 p.m. and a worker let them in. One of the men pulled out a gun and told the worker to open the cash register.
This past week, FOX 5 NY interviewed Tank Denory, co-owner of Big Chief at Third Avenue and 74th Street, regarding operating without a license to sell.
“We are not hiding anything,” he told the outlet.
The owners said they have applied for a license and are awaiting approval. He added that no cops have approached him.
Earlier this month, Councilmember Justin Brannan and State Senator Andrew Gounardes wrote a letter to NYPD Commissioner Keechant Sewell to help with enforcement of the illegal sales.
“We welcome the legalization and regulation of recreational marijuana, and we look forward to the projected $350+ million per year in new tax revenue from marijuana sales and business,” the letter wrote.
“But these unlicensed sales are not contributing to our state’s economy, and the longer we allow them to happen unenforced, the longer we send the message to potential vendors that the future licenses are worthless and getting licensed is a waste of their time and money.”
The letter added that they believe the NYPD has the tools it needs from other existing laws to act on these illegal marijuana dispensaries now, before or without further action in Albany.
“It’s hard for us to imagine that NYPD can enforce the sale of alcohol without a license from the State Liquor Authority (NYSLA), but not the sale of marijuana without a license from the Office of Cannabis Management (NYSOCM),” the letter read.
The New York State Office of Cannabis Management reiterated in a statement that owners need a license to sell cannabis in the state.
“If you do not have one, you are not selling cannabis legally,” said the statement. “The Office of Cannabis Management implores all illegal store operators, including stores pretending to be legal operations, to stop selling cannabis products immediately or risk facing additional consequences.”
During her conference, Malliotakis also brought up the dangers of unauthorized products.
“We are concerned with open borders about fentanyl and other drugs coming into our city,” she said.
“How do we know one of these unauthorized illegal products is not laced with something? That’s what the Democrats’ argument was when they chose to decriminalize marijuana. That they would know it’s a legitimate product that is safe. If that’s the case, they need to shut down these shops that are operating illegally.”
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