The campaign is to combat the proliferation of illegal, unlicensed smoke shops and protect the health and well-being of consumers and young New Yorkers put at risk by unregulated cannabis and tobacco products. The New York City Sheriff’s Office Joint Compliance Task Force to Address Illegal Smoke Shops has sent letters to landlords and owners of 50 buildings across the five boroughs warning that they could be legally liable for the continued unlicensed sale of cannabis or tobacco products by their tenants. At these 50 locations alone, the task force has already imposed more than $7 million in penalties — including an estimated $3.9 million in illegal product seized and nearly another $3.2 million in civil penalties issued.
This new effort builds on the Adams administration’s partnership with Manhattan District Attorney Alvin L. Bragg, Jr., other local law enforcement, and elected officials to combat the rise of illegal smoke shops in Manhattan. Now, expanded citywide, the initiative will target landlords and building owners at locations where the city has taken enforcement actions and issued violations. The task force will send letters warning of potential evictions, fines, and other penalties if tenants continue to engage in unlawful behavior.
“Our administration is using every tool available to protect young people and all New Yorkers from dangerous, illegal cannabis and tobacco products, while sending a clear message that anyone helping these illegal, unlicensed shops spread throughout our communities will be held accountable,” said Mayor Adams. “To support the emerging, legal cannabis market, we must go after the bad actors who are breaking the law. Our interagency task force is coming together to keep our communities safe.”
“The proliferation of unlicensed smoke shops across our city must stop,” said First Deputy Mayor Sheena Wright. “Today, we are putting landlords on notice of their responsibility to ensure their property is not being used to sell illegal cannabis or tobacco. The letter is intended to educate property owners about the significant consequences they will face for flouting the law.”
“This administration is taking a hard line cracking down on the proliferation of smoke shops illegally selling tobacco, vaping, and cannabis products across the city,” said Deputy Mayor for Public Safety Phillip Banks III. “While New York’s public safety agencies will continue to visit these establishments to ensure they are following the law, we are making it clear to landlords today that they have an important role to play in this process, and if illegal products are being sold on their property, they will be held accountable.”
“While there is no single solution to the proliferation of illegal smoke shops, the landlord letter is one more tool that provides an opportunity for correction,” said New York City Sheriff Anthony Miranda. “Landlords are informed of their obligations and potential liability, as well as how to take corrective action and the support available for them.”
“The New York City Police Department is committed to eradicating the unlicensed, illegal smoke shops that destabilize an emerging business interest and pose significant public safety and health risks in neighborhoods throughout the five boroughs,” said New York City Police Department (NYPD) Commissioner Edward A. Caban. “The NYPD remains focused on our city’s mission to protect New Yorkers and ensure that cannabis and tobacco regulations are properly recognized, accepted, and enforced.”
The letter explains to landlords and owners that they could face “an injunction and penalties up to $1,000 a day,” and that the city “is empowered to request that the building owner or landlord initiate an action to remove tenants from the property.”
Over the coming weeks, the task force — which consists of the Sheriff’s Office, the NYPD, and the Mayor’s Office of Special Enforcement — will review unlicensed smoke shops that have received violations for unauthorized cannabis sales and other illegal activity and then notify landlords of their requirement to comply with the law.
Today’s announcement builds on the Adams administration’s ongoing efforts to crack down on illegal smoke shops and dangerous vape products posing a harm to New Yorkers. In addition to actions taken with Manhattan District Attorney Bragg earlier this year, this past summer, Mayor Adams and New York City Corporation Counsel Sylvia O. Hinds Radix filled a federal lawsuit against four major distributors of flavored disposable e-cigarettes — the most popular vaping devices among middle-school children and high school youth — for unlawfully distributing exotically flavored disposable e-cigarettes to retail vape and smoke shops, convenience stores, and directly to consumers in New York City through online sales. Two distributors have agreed to stop selling e-cigarettes in New York City while the remaining two are facing a preliminary injunction from the New York City Department of Law.
Additionally, last year, the Adams administration formed a joint task force that included the Sheriff’s Office, the NYPD, the New York City Department of Consumer and Worker Protection, and the New York State Office of Cannabis Management to conduct enforcement against unlicensed establishments selling cannabis, cannabis-infused edibles, illegal vaping products, illegal cigarettes, and other illegal tobacco products. Since forming, the task force has imposed more than $63 million in penalties — including an estimated $40.5 million in illegal product seized and over $23 million in civil penalties issued — and conducted more than 1,300 compliance and intelligence inspections.
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