Governor Kathy Hochul’s determined efforts to combat illegal cannabis operations in New York have gained even more momentum with a new multi-agency initiative authorized as part of the 2024 Budget. The State aims to curtail the sale of untested cannabis from unlicensed shops through comprehensive inspections and enforcement actions. Additionally, New York City Council’s unanimous passing of a new bill now prohibits landlords from knowingly leasing commercial spaces to stores selling unlicensed marijuana or tobacco products, further strengthening the crackdown on illicit cannabis sales.

The City Council’s legislation is intended to provide a crucial response to the alarming rise of approximately 1,600 unlicensed shops selling cannabis products across the five boroughs of NYC. The bill holds landlords accountable and actively discourages them from renting space to unlicensed shops. It empowers landlords to evict tenants engaged in unlicensed activities, ensuring that illicit cannabis and tobacco sales are not tolerated within their premises. Under this new legislation, landlords found leasing to unlicensed marijuana and tobacco purveyors will receive an initial warning and may subsequently face steep fines ($5,000 for first offenses and $10,000 for additional violations) if they continue such rental arrangements.

Governor Hochul’s relentless push to crack down on illegal cannabis sales has garnered significant legislative support. Recent legislation grants the Office of Cannabis Management (“OCM”) the power to impose substantial civil penalties, starting at $10,000 per day and rising up to $20,000 per day for the most severe violations. This move, in conjunction with New York City’s new bill targeting landlords, aims to safeguard public health, support legal cannabis businesses, and establish a regulated market that prioritizes consumer trust and social equity.

As New York continues to strengthen its stance against unlicensed operators, they are utilizing all available resources to do so, including the city’s real estate owners. With the opening of the first licensed adult-use cannabis dispensaries in the Bronx and on Long Island this month, the state is poised to establish a thriving and equitable legal cannabis market, ensuring that the health and safety of its citizens remain a top priority.