Tuesday, January 3, 2023

The future of the unlicensed weed vendors

The Housing Works Cannabis Co. store — New York's first legal recreational marijuana market — opened to great fanfare and long lines this past Thursday on Broadway at Eighth Street in a former Gap retail space. 

So what might happen in the months ahead to the numerous unlicensed sellers who have popped up all over the East Village and every other city neighborhood? 

Curbed had a piece on this topic the other day titled: "The Weed Bodega Was Beautiful While It Lasted." 
[P]er New York's Office of Cannabis Management, the era of the weed bodega — the tacky, snack-filled corner-store purveyor, like the regular bodega's stoner cousin — is about to be over. Instead, the state's legal weed retailers will be subject to an extremely long list of regulations that includes rules on everything from location to security to aesthetics. 

The compliance requirements will undoubtedly be onerous and expensive for many of the operators vying for licenses, but the décor rules in particular seem designed to kill the gray-market upstarts that flooded the city in the beautiful, wild period between decriminalization and the rollout of official licenses. 

It's as if regulators walked into a humble weed bodega — Cloudy Vibez, Weed 4 U, Kannabis Korner — and banned everything they saw: "cartoons," "bubble-type or other cartoon-like font," "bright colors," "neon," the terms "candy" or "candies," "kandy" or "kandeez," and "symbols, images, characters, public figures, phrases, toys, or games" commonly marketed to people under 21. 

Also barred are signs or business names "depicting cannabis, cannabis products, or the imagery or action of smoking or vaping." As the city begins to enforce these rules in earnest, the welcoming visage of a rasta Alvin the Chipmunk will begin to disappear from our streetscape. 
Meanwhile, the city is cracking down on the illegal shops ... not to mention the sidewalk vendors, as seen on St. Mark's Place between Second Avenue and Third Avenue. 

This past Dec. 7, we received multiple EVG reader tips about busts underway at East Village shops (photo below by Derek Berg) ...
As Gothamist reported, the Sheriff's Interagency Enforcement Task Force has been cracking down on the shops citywide. 

Per the site: 
The task force is led by the sheriff's office — the enforcement arm of the city's Department of Finance — and also includes the police department, the Department of Consumer and Worker Protection, and the state Office of Cannabis Management.

Mayor Eric Adams announced the creation of the task force in mid-December. In a two-week span, officials said at the time, the task force had inspected 53 storefronts across the city and seized more than 100,000 illegal products worth about $4 million. Officials also issued 500 civil violations and 66 criminal summonses over that time, Sheriff Anthony Miranda said. All told, the city has conducted 248 store inspections, including 23 in December, through Dec. 29.
Another factor in the potential demise of the unlicensed shops: a survey (results here) conducted by the New York Medical Cannabis Industry Association found the presence of potentially deadly E. coli, salmonella and pesticides in many products from 20 unlicensed stores that publicly advertise selling marijuana, as Bloomberg reported

As the Post noted, the study also found that there are "likely tens of thousands of illicit cannabis businesses currently out of bodegas, smoke shops, or other retail locations" that are licensed to sell other products. 
So as the enforcement becomes stricter and the fines pile up, what will the owners of the unlicensed businesses do moving forward — especially if their shops, many looking like a set-piece from "Bullet Train," don't meet the state's requirements? What kind of empty storefront surplus might be upon us in the months ahead if smoke shops don't open in every vacant space?

Top photo from Dec. 29 by Steven


Anonymous said...

So weird, weed is legal and illegal at the same time. Like schrodinger's cat. Is it alive or dead. Lol

XTC said...

"E. coli, salmonella, pesticides" (n weed products) ..........Sound like bullshit.......The City and State are horny as hell for all the tax revenue that is going to be generated by legal weed.

Anonymous said...

What a ridiculous set of regulations. Can't believe we now have mall cops to judge the decor of a store.

Anonymous said...

23 in an entire month! More illegal shops than that open every day in the city! And there's more than that within a three block radius of my apt! The city and state blew it, illegal shops are here to stay. Too bad!

Anonymous said...

Damn really all that in cannabis ?? Where ??

Anonymous said...

So, how do unlicensed sellers rent out storefronts?


Their decor should absolutely be regulated. Joe Camel hasn't been seen since 1997 because the character was designed to appeal to kids and when was the last time anyone saw Pikachu in the window of a liquor store? Why should they get special treatment.

XTC said...

Agree that the decor should be regulated. No need to tart it up like a caravan of Pakistani painted trucks and buses. It's adult shit and we all know kids will get their stick fingers on it anyway but to promote it like harmless candy is a bad idea.

Anonymous said...

Weed was always going to be regulated much the same as liquor.
We all knew that, so what's the problem with closing down the smoke shops?
Those purveyors were not oblivious to their own eventual demise, but they took the chance anyway.

They would have done better placing all that cash on the roulette tables and betting on black.

BKNY said...

NY❤Narcs. Nothing as important as narc empowerment, including judicial harm reduction. Look at those narcs in the pic. How much do we think it costs to parade them around? What a waste. Spend that money hiring mental health workers. Enough with NYC's cop worship.

Anonymous said...

I don’t understand the landlords that rent to them. When there is already another shop two doors down or across the street, aren’t they risking tens of thousands of dollars of back rent and legal fees to evict them once they fail from the over saturation of illegal weed shops and head shops in the neighborhood?

Anonymous said...

Completely agree about the sense of special treatment. Rules are rules and I'm happy there's a step up in enforcement.

Mark said...

I am all for this even though I am not a marijuana user. It's a stream of revenue for our city and state. However, the constant hordes of patrons seems chaotic. Whenever I walk past it to take the R uptown, it's difficult to find space to walk. Hopefully, things will calm down. I wonder if more destinations such as this will become more accessible to others who don't live in our neighborhood?

Anonymous said...

Once again NYS/NYC talking and acting like they are the first people to legalize cannabis.

Aron Pieman Kay said...

Time to undercut the corporate stores!!!
I urge guerilla pot vending must happen!!
Set up your stand and offer better prices
I consider taxing pot to be extortion!!
Support the pot revolution!!
Don’t pay the tax

Anonymous said...

Happy New Year Pieman!!!

noble neolani said...

Weed is a drug, it must be regulated for the safety of those who consume it. People for good reason fret about the purity the water they drink, the air they breath and additives which are many foods, especially meat Yes some bitch that a substance which you suck into your lungs every day/ week should not have oversight?

Anonymous said...

As predicted, they basically just set up everyone to fail. This is the absolute worst rollout I've ever seen. Limited licenses that took over a year to approve, and now you are gonna take away and punish the smoke shops that you strung along all year with a fancy new enforcement division. SCREW THAT! I knew the state would come up with a way to find the most profit off this in the end. Hoping to see a ton of lawsuits
How can every other state get this right?

Anonymous said...

I agree with this, but the smoke shops i buy from have legitimate carts and edibles they sell fro. California with multiple levels of verification and regular testing. Ny is not on that level and offering an affordable product. They could do it and I'd be all for it, but the only regulation is how much of a cut they get.
Screw that, I'd trust the establish product to on the gray market over ny's regulations and fattened up pricing.

Anonymous said...

There's three levels:
Legalish like Housing Works Cannabis;
Places that take pride and joy and artistry that are like boutiques that support local culture and have good quality - the employees have tried the product, know was Sativa and Indica is, and know that 3.5 grams is an eighth-ounce;
then there's the places with no knowledge or pride or personal experience - maybe they don't care if we are poisoned or if organized crime supplies them, or if they are sending us to hell.