Mayor Adams Shuts 75 Illegal Smoke And Cannabis Shops, Issues $6M Penalties

May 14, 2024

New York City Mayor Eric Adams today announced the results of week one of “Operation Padlock to Protect”.

A sustained multi-agency enforcement action to shut down illegal smoke and cannabis shops across the five boroughs. In the first week of enforcement, the New York City Sherriff’s Joint Compliance Task Force — made up of members from the Sheriff’s Office, the New York City Police Department (NYPD), and the New York City Department of Consumer and Worker Protection (DCWP) — sealed 75 locations and issued nearly $6 million in penalties. The Sherriff’s Joint Compliance Task Force conducted operations on May 4, 7, 9, and 11.   

“Week one of ‘Operation Padlock to Protect,’ reaffirms what we’ve long said: With the backing of legal authority behind us, our administration will act swiftly to combat illegal cannabis and smoke shop operators,” said Mayor Adams. “For too long, illegal operators have posed a threat to our children, our public safety, and our quality of life, and they have undermined those justice-involved, legal businesses that are trying to succeed. With this coordinated and sustained multi-agency enforcement, we will help usher in a thriving, safe, and just legal cannabis market that our city deserves while protecting our city’s children, families, and vibrant business districts from being subjected to these brazen storefronts.” 

Following Mayor Adams’ successful advocacy in Albany for municipalities to be given the regulatory authority by the state to finally shut down illegal shops plaguing city streets, New York City moved quickly to execute its legal authority, and will accelerate that execution in the coming weeks. The Sherriff’s Joint Compliance Task Force systematically conducts joint operations in neighborhoods across the five boroughs, which includes inspections and follow-up inspections. When operators are ordered to be sealed, local NYPD precincts monitor those locations to ensure compliance and alert the Sheriff’s Office when violations of the seal order occur. The NYPD can also make arrests for violating the sheriff’s closure orders. ‘Operation Padlock to Protect’ is an example of the Adams administration’s efforts to double down on its commitment to swiftly shut down illegal operators, protect the city’s children, improve quality of life, and facilitate a safe and thriving legal cannabis market. 


In its first week of operations, the Sherriff’s Joint Compliance Task Force conducted 150 inspections of unlicensed locations in the vicinity of schools or houses of worship allegedly selling cannabis, THC edibles, THC vape, untaxed cigarettes, flavored tobacco, flavored vapes, or other tobacco products in the confines of the NYPD’s eight borough commands. Inspections resulted in:  

  • 77 cease and desist orders and 75 shops sealed.  
  • 370 notices of violations holding 3,878 counts of violations across NYPD, DCWP, and the Sheriff’s Office.  
  • More than $5,960,000 in civil penalties issued.   

Parents, businesses, elected officials, community groups, criminal justice advocates, and more have been alarmed by the scourge of illegal operators in every neighborhood across New York City and applaud the Adams administration’s decisive action.  

Mayor Adams and law enforcement officials address members of the New York City Sherriff’s Joint Compliance Task Force
Sheriff Miranda and members of law enforcement padlock a store unlawfully selling cannabis last week during “Operation Padlock to Protect.”

“The legalization of cannabis was long overdue and represented an important step towards righting past injustices,” said U.S. Representative Dan Goldman. “However, the unchecked proliferation of unlicensed and unregulated smoke shops endangers consumers, children, and communities. These unlicensed shops undermine the time, effort, and money that law-abiding New Yorkers invested to obtain legal licenses. I applaud Mayor Adams for prioritizing this issue as well as the Governor and State Legislature for empowering local law enforcement to take action against illegal operators.” 

“Unlicensed pot shops have been showing up next to our homes, schools, churches, and community centers, and since we first called for the city to intervene eighteen months ago, the NYPD has worked diligently to investigate and shut these illegal operations down,” said U.S. Representative Nicole Malliotakis. “Many in our community oppose marijuana shops authorized by the state, and the last thing we need is additional illegal dispensaries operating on our street corners, especially when the products they are selling are not being regulated. We appreciate the city’s efforts to crack down on these illegal operations and enact swift consequences for those putting public health and safety at risk.” 

“I was proud to deliver a historic victory for the City of New York when my SMOKEOUT Act passed in the state budget,” said New York State Assemblymember Jenifer Rajkumar.  “Now, the city has the authority to use its full manpower to shut down illegal shops for good. These past few months, I launched ‘Operation: SMOKEOUT’ that brought New Yorkers together across all five boroughs with the common cause of shutting down these shops. I am grateful to Mayor Adams for his support. Parents, children, business owners, and community leaders all stepped up and spoke out. The inclusion of SMOKEOUT Act in the budget was a win for public safety, common sense, and the health of our children. The people have spoken, and Albany has listened. I look forward to joining Sheriff Miranda on raids of smoke shops across our city so we can smoke ‘em out and shut them down for good.” 

“I am proud to have voted for a state budget to support vital measures that will strengthen cannabis enforcement and promote public safety,” said New York State Assemblymember Rebecca Seawright. “The proliferation of these shops is endangering our community. Many of the products being seized are marketed to children using common brand names like “Starburst” or “SweeTARTS. It is critical that we crack down on unlicensed cannabis in our neighborhood and across our city.” 

“We have taken aggressive action against illegal cannabis merchants who are undercutting legal vendors, denying badly needed tax revenues for essential public services, and are the focus of numerous community complaints,” said Queens District Attorney Melinda Katz. “We’ve commenced eviction proceedings against dozens of illegal cannabis dispensaries, which can be a lengthy process. Thank you to Mayor Adams for giving us an additional tool to help us quickly shutter these bad actors once and for all.” 

“Illegal smoke shops pose real threats to my borough’s families, children, and public safety,” said Staten Island District Attorney Michael E. McMahon. “Furthermore, these unsightly blights on our community diminish our quality of life and the vibrancy of our local economy. Working with our partners in the NYPD and the New York City Sheriff’s Office, the men and women of my office have helped to impose millions of dollars in fines, seize thousands of pounds of contraband, and make dozens of arrests against these black market ‘businesses.’ While we have had some success, it is not good enough. Limitations previously placed on us by state law have hindered our ability to effectively hold illegal smoke shops accountable. Now, thanks to Governor Hochul and Mayor Adams, our partners in law enforcement have finally been empowered to seize contraband and padlock illegal dispensaries in a timely manner and my office looks forward to working alongside them in the weeks and months to come to close these pernicious proprietors for good.” 

“The unprecedented rise in unlicensed smoke shops have had a severe impact on our communities and are threatening the success of licensed cannabis entrepreneurs who have gone through the process to operate a legitimate business in our city,” said Bronx Borough President Vanessa L. Gibson. “I want to thank Mayor Adams and his team for taking action against these illegal cannabis shops and for protecting the health and safety of our residents from these businesses.” 

“There is no ambiguity in the law: it is illegal to sell cannabis without a license. For the first time, ambiguity on how to enforce the law is now gone,” said New York City Councilmember Gale A. Brewer. “I know more than most how difficult enforcement has been. Thank you, Sheriff Miranda, for your hard work and dedication. I am eager to see ‘Operation Padlock to Protect’ in action in all five boroughs. I became involved in closing unlicensed cannabis retailers for two reasons. First, I needed to respond to concerned parents. Second, I wholeheartedly support the state cannabis law and am dedicated to its success. Thank you, Mayor Adams for your advocacy, DCWP Commissioner Vilda Vera Mayuga for your support, and Office of Cannabis Management Executive Director Chris Alexander for creating the most equitable and inclusive legal cannabis market in the country.” 

“It is great to see this determined effort from the mayor’s office to shut down these operations,” said New York City Councilmember Joann Ariola. “For far too long, unlicensed cannabis and smoke shops have plagued our streets. This latest initiative sends a clear message that illegal operations will not be tolerated in New York City, and I applaud the mayor for instituting this crackdown.” 

Taking firm steps to close unlicensed smoke and cannabis shops, ensuring that only legal and regulated businesses operate within our community is important,” said New York City Councilmember Chris Banks. We must stand together to protect the citizens of New York City.” 

New York City is finally standing up against the unlicensed cannabis networks that have evaded taxes, compromised public health, targeted minors, and undermined the licensed market and the important restorative justice measures that legalization intended,” said New York City Councilmember Erik Bottcher. “These illicit establishments have been a blight on our communities for far too long, making a mockery of the regulation and taxation framework carefully crafted to benefit our state and its communities. The enforcement measures initiated to close these illegal operations are not just timely; they are long overdue. Together, we are sending a clear message: New York City is committed to ensuring the success of cannabis legalization and ensuring that our residents enjoy a safe, healthy, and just environment.” 

​ “Illegal pot shops have severely undermined the quality of life in our communities, and the process to shut them down has been frustratingly slow,” said New York City Councilmember Bob Holden. “This operation represents a significant step towards restoring safety and order in my district and across the entire city.” 

​“District 13 in the Bronx has long awaited this decisive action against illegal smoke and cannabis shops,” said New York City Councilmember Kristy Marmorato. “For too long, our communities have been burdened by the presence of these unlicensed establishments, jeopardizing the safety, and well-being of our residents, especially our youth. The enforcement efforts initiated by Mayor Adams and law enforcement agencies bring a sense of relief and optimism to District 13. Finally, permanent steps are being taken to address this issue head-on, ensuring that our neighborhoods are free from the negative impacts of illicit drug sales. I commend the administration for prioritizing the needs and concerns of my district and look forward to a safer, healthier future for all city residents.” 

“In our relentless pursuit of a safer and law-abiding city, we’ve taken decisive action to close the door on illicit smoke and cannabis shops,” said New York City Councilmember Nantasha Williams. “Mayor Adams and Senator Comrie’s advocacy, coupled with the state’s empowering legislation, has granted us the regulatory muscle to rid our streets of these unlawful establishments. With formal rules now in place, the New York City Sheriff’s Office, alongside our dedicated law enforcement partners, stands ready to padlock any shop operating without a license. We’re reclaiming our neighborhoods and upholding the integrity of our communities.” 

“Illegal cannabis shops sell unregulated product and present a danger to communities throughout New York City,” said Kathryn Wylde, president and CEO, Partnership for New York City. “Business leaders applaud the tough enforcement authority that Mayor Adams and Governor Hochul have fought hard to secure and are eager to see permanent closure of the illegal shops.”  

“We are thrilled that New York City finally has the authority to shut the thousands of illegal smoke shops that have been peddling dangerous and unregulated products out in the open – not only selling cannabis without a license but also flavored nicotine vapes that have been illegal in the city and state for years,” said Dorian Fuhrman, Meredith Berkman, and Mimi Boublik, founders, Parents Against Vaping. “Parents in every neighborhood are fed up and have been calling for stricter enforcement on these shops. Thank you, Mayor Adams, Sheriff Miranda, and the entire joint task force, as well as all the elected officials who have fought to protect the safety of our kids and of all New Yorkers.” 

“Neighborhood after neighborhood has experienced the negative impacts of the proliferation of illegal smoke shops across the city,” said Randy Peers, president and CEO, The Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce. “’Operation Padlock to Protect,’ along with a comprehensive enforcement effort throughout the five boroughs, will go a long way in protecting our communities while safeguarding a vibrant and legal cannabis industry in New York City.” 

“As a key stakeholder in the Bronx business community, we applaud Mayor Adams’ decisive action to shut down unlicensed smoke and cannabis shops across the five boroughs,” said Lisa Sorin, president, Bronx Chamber of Commerce. “This operation not only protects the integrity of our legal cannabis market, but also safeguards our neighborhoods — particularly our youth — from the dangers associated with illicit substances. We stand in support of efforts to promote a safe and thriving environment for businesses and residents alike.” 

“We applaud the Adams administration for acting swiftly to use its new enforcement powers to shutdown illegal cannabis shops,” said Jessica Walker, president and CEO, Manhattan Chamber of Commerce. “This is a win for residents who will no longer have to face this quality-of-life concern and for the legal cannabis industry that can confidently invest in New York without the threat of unfair competition from those not complying with the state’s guidelines.” 

“This announcement and the mayor’s action take great strides to improving quality of life in the districts we serve throughout the five boroughs,” said Erin Piscopink and Robert Benfatto, co-chairs, BID Association. “These illegal shops have proliferated in our communities, negatively impacting the retail mix, attracting crime, and making it more difficult for legal businesses to set up shop. The BID Association advocated for the legislation that would allow local enforcement and are thrilled to see the city and state working together to make positive impacts in our communities.” 

“Now that the state has finally granted local enforcement the regulatory authority to shut these illegal businesses down, we commend and thank Mayor Adams and the administration for aggressively moving forward with plans to padlock unlicensed weed and smoke shops that have proliferated throughout the city and are a blight in our communities and business districts,” said Fred Cerullo, president and CEO, Grand Central Partnership. 

“For far too long these illegal cannabis stores have gone unchecked bringing crime and disorder to our neighborhoods,” said Tom Harris, president, Times Square Alliance. “We are thrilled that the Adams administration is committed to using these new guidelines to get stuff done and close these establishments.”  

“The Garment District Alliance applauds the mayor’s initiative to aggressively pursue these illegal retailers,” said Barbara Blair, president, Garment District Alliance. “Illegal weed shops are a blight on our city. They degrade the quality of life and undercut the entire program that was intended to regulate and ensure opportunities to purchase cannabis safely.  We thank the mayor and the governor for acknowledging the enormity of this problem and taking these steps in response.” 

“Unlicensed cannabis shops cast a shadow over Midtown streets and public spaces,” said Dan Biederman, co-founder, 34th Street Partnership. “The illegal shops are a detriment to quality of life and hurt leasing nearby, pushing the neighborhood in the wrong direction. The initiative to shut down illegal shops is a major step in the right direction for the city.” 

“As a member of Community Education Council 23 one of the biggest complaints we’ve heard from parents and school communities is the negative impact these smoke shops are having on our students and our schools,” said Osariemen Elcock, member, Community Education Council 23. “I’m excited to hear about these next steps from the Adams administration and look forward to seeing the effect it will have on keeping our kids safe.” 

“The Citywide Council on High Schools, which represents 300,000 students in New York City Public Schools and their families, applauds this initiative to clamp down on illegal smoke and cannabis operations, especially as many of these shops are proliferating in the vicinity of High Schools to target students,” said Debbie Kross, president, Citywide Council on High Schools. “We are also facing a nationwide opioid problem, with vaping pens and cannabis products laced with fentanyl. We praise Mayor Adams for finally taking all necessary actions to protect our children.” 

“As President of Community Education Council of District 7, I’m excited to hear about these steps from Mayor Adams to crack down on illegal smoke shops,” said Tamika Jackson-Willis, president, Community Education Council District 7. “It’s a constant concern we hear from parents who are concerned about their child’s safety and well-being. I hope this will make our kids travel to and from school safer and healthier.” 

“With new and expanded civil enforcement powers, New York City is leading the effort to bring an end to unlicensed storefronts that are masquerading, misleading, and potentially endangering New Yorkers,” said Osbert Osduña, owner, The Cannabis Place. “These unlicensed storefront owners don’t care about our communities or the plant. By padlocking these storefronts selling unlicensed cannabis, the city is ensuring product safety, preserving the integrity of our neighborhoods, and creating a lasting, equitable economic opportunity for careers in the legal cannabis industry. I am grateful for the collaborative leadership efforts by Mayor Adams and Governor Hochul to bring New Yorks legal cannabis industry to realization.”  

​“The city’s announcement to crackdown on illicit cannabis vendors is welcome news,” said John Robert, owner, Utopia Flowers. “My colleagues and I are looking forward to building our business without the distractions and confusions these bad actors bring to our industry. Undoubtedly this has been a complex process to navigate, but with the Office of Cannabis Management, and Governor Hochul, and Mayor Adams’ leadership, we will be able to serve New Yorkers with the legal, quality cannabis they deserve.”  

Photo credit: 1) Members of law enforcement seize illegal cannabis being sold during a raid as part of “Operation Padlock to Protect.” 2) Mayor Adams and law enforcement officials address members of the New York City Sherriff’s Joint Compliance Task Force before they begin “Operation Padlock to Protect.” 3) Sheriff Miranda and members of law enforcement padlock a store unlawfully selling cannabis last week during “Operation Padlock to Protect.” 



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