The Mayor Op-Ed: Operation Padlock To Protect, NYC Cracks Down On Illegal Smoke And Cannabis Shops

May 13, 2024

When we came to office two years ago, we had a clear vision: protect public safety, rebuild our economy, and make this city more livable for hardworking New Yorkers

 But the increase of unlicensed smoke and cannabis shops across the five boroughs is one of the biggest quality-of-life issues facing our city. That’s why now that we have been granted the authority, we’re taking action against unlicensed smoke and cannabis shops, while still supporting those that have played by the rules.

Illegal businesses prey on and target our most vulnerable, including children, selling dangerous, counterfeit products, and creating eyesores across our city. Illegal smoke and cannabis shops stand in the way of the legal cannabis market, taking money out of the registers of small business owners trying to earn a living, many of whom are formerly justice-involved. To help the emerging legal cannabis economy and protect our streets, we must permanently shut down these illegal storefronts and their unlawful business practices.

That’s exactly what “Operation Padlock to Protect” will do. The multi-agency operation is the start of a five-borough strategic plan — that will accelerate in the coming weeks — to shut down even more unlicensed smoke and cannabis shops in the City of New York. Thanks to Governor Kathy Hochul and our partners in the state Legislature, New York City can now use the full force of the law to padlock and protect our streets. With these new enforcement powers and legal authority granted by the state, we are making it clear that any operator acting illegally will face swift consequences as we protect our city’s children, improve quality of life, and facilitate a safe and thriving legal cannabis market.

Operation Padlock to Protect is bringing together the New York City Sheriff’s Office, the New York City Police Department, and the Department of Consumer and Worker Protection in partnership as the agencies padlock these illegal and unlicensed shops. Businesses that operate near a church or school, sell to minors, or have gotten customers sick in the past can now see their doors sealed and padlocked that very same day.

Prior to securing these powers from the state, we could only use the limited tools available to us to protect children and crack down on these illegal stores. Our interagency Sheriff’s Joint Compliance Task Force was able to conduct limited enforcement against unlicensed establishments, but we were still able to conduct over 46,000 inspections, collect over $18 million dollars in fines, issue 17,000 summonses, and close down 160 illegal businesses. Real numbers showing the real impact of our interagency efforts.

The legal cannabis industry offers a once-in-a-generation chance for those disproportionately impacted by the so-called ‘War on Drugs’ to build wealth, especially in our Black and Brown communities. For too long, these communities faced high rates of drug-related incarceration and were denied economic opportunities. But thanks to the equitable, legal cannabis industry, they have the chance to get in on the industry from the ground up and our administration wants to ensure that this emerging economy has a chance to burn bright in our city.

Those who flout the cannabis laws and regulations are robbing the very communities that are finally on the cusp of benefiting from a just and equitable system. These new enforcement powers make it clear: if you operate an illegal smoke shop, you will be shut down.

We are going to continue to protect our city’s children, improve quality of life, and facilitate a safe and thriving legal cannabis market in New York City.

Photo credit: HWM.

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