Concerns over the growing number of smoke shops

More than a few neighbors have written to me with concerns about the smoke shops opening around the neighborhood — but as a non-smoker in just about every regard, I have not had an easy time taking count. Help me in comments.

The four new ones so far on my radar: Big City Smoke Shop on Church and Park Place; Battery Park Convenience in Battery Park City; the Smoke Shop at 157 Chambers; and now new to Canal Street, with the flamboyant moniker, Bud & Beyond. (Thanks to N., J. and D. for the snaps.) The state just recently started issuing its licenses; safe to say these spots aren’t among them. (I can’t find any records for Bud & Beyond, other than the state incorporation license from May, and while D. and I thought they were connected to the delivery service Uncle Budds, they are not, they said in an email: “Thanks for reaching out. We are delivery only since NYPD took our trucks back in August. We have no interest in a store front.”)

UPDATE: A. sent the picture below and this note from the new Jungle Boys store: “Funny timing on your article today – this evening walked past this smoke shop on Broadway and Warren getting cleaned out by the NY Sheriff’s Office!”

It is not easy to figure out what is legal and what is not — I have tried (press lines and consumer lines) for a couple weeks to see if there is a search tool like the SLA has for licenses, and from what I can tell, no. It is easy, however, to buy cannabis products at any of these places: just go in and ask. So it’s safe to say that the unlicensed smoke shops will continue to multiply till there’s some sort of enforcement. (The Times reported that the city is loathe to enforce the unlicensed shops.)

The main thing I really take issue here with is the 24-hour nature of some of these businesses. Neighbors likely don’t want their local weed dispensary open all night any more than they want a bar open all night. Folks have complained that selling candy in a smoke shop is unfairly marketing these products to children. Smoke shops must hold Electronic Cigarette Retail Dealer licenses or​ ​Tobacco Retail Dealer licenses, but I have yet to figure out how to check for them. Awaiting word from the press contacts.

Here’s the background, gleaned from the newly formed state Office of Cannabis Management (OCM — curious if we will all call it that, like we do with the SLA) and the NYC Department of Small Business Services newly launched “Cannabis NYC” program:

  • As of Nov. 17, the state has released 36 licenses, all to business owners with a cannabis Conviction or a family member with a cannabis conviction, including eight to non-profits
  • The state now has granted 277 cultivator licenses
  • The state has granted 33 processor licenses
  • New York requires all weed sold in the state to have been grown, processed and tested within its borders, a supply chain known as seed-to-sale
  • It is still against the law for people younger than 21 years old to possess, sell, or use any amount of cannabis. Also, no one may legally possess more than three ounces of cannabis and 24 grams of concentrated cannabis, sell any amount without a license, or drive while under the influence or impaired by cannabis

So my goal is to see if we can learn which places are licensed and which are not. I think it’s safe to say none of the above for now, but stay tuned.

 

32 Comments

  1. I WAS JUST THINKING THIS!! I saw a new one on Broadway where a pharmacy used to be between Murray and Warren. A guy kept yelling, “$35 for an eighth”.

    I’m not against marijuana sales, but I don’t want to see any neighborhood overrun by them for the exact reason you describe, it’s like having an all night bar and bar scene.

    Thanks for reporting on it.

  2. I get this, but at the same time, beggars can’t be choosers. Walk around Tribeca and it is still pretty bleak with plenty of empty storefronts (the worst streets being Church and Broadway IMO). The combination of pandemic-recession, shift to e-commerce and WFH has been brutal for retail. Sticky rents probably don’t help either (I just wish landlords would take a look up and down the street at all the vacancies before raising rent).

    I don’t want the neighborhood completely filled with smoke shops either but at some level something is better than nothing?

  3. https://nypost.com/2022/11/30/nys-cannabis-control-board-is-failing-job-one-protect-public-safety/

    “[…] New York’s Marijuana Regulation and Taxation Act passed more than a year and a half ago, but even as illegal weed shops and public puffing proliferate, the Cannabis Control Board has yet to adopt final regulations.

    ” Worse still, its 282 pages of draft language pay far more attention to “social and economic equity rules” — including prioritizing licenses for convicted drug dealers — than to what should be the board’s core mission: protecting public safety as the state rolls out a dangerous drug.”

    Read the full article to see all the ways that SLA-type regulation here is totally absent and deprioritized.

  4. I have no idea how the city allows this given how it treats the advertisement and sale of cigarettes and vaping products to kids. Marijuana is still a drug that carries most of the same health risks as tobacco products. And yet these stores look trashy candy shops, often also selling snacks, candy, and other products that would lure teenagers in.

    I think most of us in NYC were all for reforms that stopped people who used marijuana from going to jail, and I think many of all were also on board with legalization. But I really don’t know who asked for this. Weed being sold in a controlled, pharamacy-like environment where it’s treated like any other OTC drug? Totally fine. But these stores are like the gross, tacky shops that used to populate Times Square in the 80s and early 90s. The ones that the city tried so hard to get rid of to improve the quality of life. And now if feels like we’ve taken several steps in the wrong direction. And to what end? As I said above, who asked for this?

    • The City has no authority in this matter. From the Post article:

      “[…] the regulations permit pot dispensaries to locate within 500 feet of schools. Pot retailers will, in fact, have easy access to young smokers. California and Colorado, both legal-pot early adopters, set the limit at 1,000 feet. Better for the board to let localities decide for themselves, but a special section limits local rule-making. […]”

      • My understanding is that these are illegal (also there is ANOTHER on worth between church and Broadway around corner from the one on Broadway between worth and Thomas).
        They are just gaining purchase while people are under the assumption that “weed has been legalized in NY). I also want to point out that these stores feel thuggish and dangerous. To purchase cannabis in states like CA, CO and Mass., these shops are under lockdown and high security. You present your ID three times, there is bulletproof glass and professional security. In other words, you feel totally safe at the door and once inside. These places feel criminal and like you might get caught by a stray bullet in a robbery.
        AND the DEA has an office right there; WHY exactly are they loathe to shut these down? Everyone knows they are all-cash so only time before something goes down. Also totally unacceptable for kids to see from street all over the place. Again, not in any other state where it is legal.

    • “ Marijuana is still a drug that carries most of the same health risks as tobacco products”

      This is a false statement

  5. The ongoing normalization and legalization of this drug seems like a serious regression. A step backwards in public health. Makes no sense. Also, increasingly the city smells like a skunk. The smoke gets into our apartment from the street, even with windows closed. Such a vile smell, which gives me instant headaches. I would prefer cigarette smoke to this nauseating odor.

  6. State has authorized very few licensed dealerships so far and so most of these are probably not legal.
    Would be helpful if someone at the State posted the legally authorized dealerships on a website.. simple solution.
    I felt this was a slippery slope to begin with and the implementation and enforcement only reinforces that feeling.
    Frankly I don’t care what people do in the privacy of their own homes … but this situation is not going to end well..

  7. I believe our city council who we voted in asked for this, you know how this city works, progressives suggest a bill, gets passed without vetting from constituents, the law is loosely worded, Voila! chaos on the streets, citizens ask how did we get here?

    • NY State politicians could not and/or would not anticipate the spread of illegal sales of marijuana (outside the state’s poorly-defined fantasy regime of regulated sales) once they failed to distinguish legalization (and regulation) from simple decriminalization.

      “[…] When New York became the 15th state to legalize cannabis last year, lawmakers saw an opportunity to reverse past wrongs. They expunged certain marijuana-related criminal records and offered priority on marijuana business licenses to “justice-involved people” with prior weed convictions.

      “Against that backdrop, lawmakers hesitated to throw the book at those now caught selling cannabis without a license and gave hazy enforcement instructions to the state’s Office of Cannabis Management.

      ” ‘Since we didn’t think this was going to happen, we didn’t put anything in the bill that gave OCM and the police departments very clear-cut rules of the road to close them down,’ said state Sen. Liz Krueger, a sponsor of the bill to legalize recreational cannabis. […]

      “Earlier this year, a bill stalled in Albany that would have strengthened penalties for illicit cannabis sales and clarified the OCM’s role in enforcement. Some lawmakers were concerned that the measure established new criminal penalties. […]”

      https://www.politico.com/news/2022/11/13/california-black-market-weed-new-york-00066470

  8. The other concern as you note is the source of the products being sold at these stores. There have been quite a few New Yorker’s who have been adversely affected by recreational drugs laced with far more powerful drugs – which the users did not know…. Who knows what is actually in the product you are buying in these stores… the stores are not licensed.. and obviously one can gather quite quickly that they are not buying from licensed producers… So this could quickly turn into a rather scary health issue as well. The NYPD needs to start knocking on some doors…

    • https://nypost.com/2022/11/30/hordes-of-illegal-cannabis-shops-invade-nyc/

      “[…] The survey, conducted by the New York Medical Cannabis Industry Association — in concert with the NJ Cannabis Trade Association and Connecticut Medical Cannabis Council — bought cannabis products from 20 unlicensed stores that publicly advertise selling marijuana, and had the products tested by an independent lab.

      ” The lab results found the presence of potentially deadly E. coli, salmonella, heavy metals and pesticides in many products.

      ” About 40% of the THC products failed at least one of the standard tests administered to legal cannabis products and only available at legal medical cannabis dispensaries, the study found.

      ” The lab results also found an example of THC levels more than twice as advertised — with gummy bears labeled at 100 mg of THC at one shop testing at 204.77 mg, the survey alleges. […]”

      • Wow… Thank you for updating with that link… Sad to see this is happening but pretty much what one would expect with illegal stores.

        Mayor Adams, if the city really cares about “The Health of it’s Citizens” (your very recent speech) .. it should be moving NYPD over to shut down these illegal unlicensed operations and allow only properly licensed businesses with safe legal merchandise to remain in operation.

        Sadly I feel this is all one big money grab for the state and the city.. they don’t really care about the repercussions to the citizenry …

      • That study was bogus. It was paid for by the legal weed industry and mostly focused on weed, which is a huge problem in legal weed and used Weed World as one of the samples, when the owners will tell you they sell 0% THC “weed” (aka garbage)

        • I do not care that customers are not getting the “high” they paid for. I do care that myriad unlicensed, unregulated sellers of adulterated drugs are allowed to operate with impunity because of political correctness, miscommunication, and bureaucratic stupidity & shortsightedness.

    • And that Bud & Beyond shop is literally across the street from the Canal MTA police station (and there’s always tons of uniformed cops hanging around the area).There’s literally an NYPD van parked outside it in the article’s picture. It’s either gotta be legal or the police have been instructed to ignore it.

  9. Weed shops are proliferating on the UES like cockroaches. Most stores (sometimes 2 on a block) have the exact type signage and lighting. It would seem to indicate there’s an organized (possibly crime) syndicate involved. If they follow the money we’d find out who’s behind most of these weed shops. But it’s obvious the NYPD is cracking down because the big corporate & political players expect their lion’s share of the legal market.
    150 licenses going are being “awarded” to businesses & 25 to non-profits. Of course, we’ll never know the details on the “winners” and how they beat out over 1000 applicants :)

    On another entrepreneur note: Canal Street has a burgeoning open air weed market. I’ve spotted huge African baskets filled to the brim with full quart mason jars filled with weed. Street vendors openly roll and sell spliffs & blunts on tables. Under de Blasio and and now Adams we can expect more Vision Zero.

  10. Things NYC enforces: Parking

    Things NYC doesn’t enforce: Everything else

  11. We are in one of those phases where the rules and compliance enforcement has not caught up with the market activity. I never did like pot, had college roommates who were High quite often and it was never for me. That said I think this type of business needs to be regulated and unlicensed operators need to be shut down. Most commercial leases require their tenants to be in compliance with all applicable laws, so I am a but surprised whatever lawyer is handling the lease for the landlord isnt raising that issue with the landlord talking about possible liability

  12. Ask the landlords too: why are they renting to these stores? I work with a landlord/ management company that refuses to allow a smoke shop in any of his building – which is totally within their rights by the way. They know in the long run it’s not good for their other tenants – and neighboring buildings as well.

    • Some landlords turn a blind eye.

      The real insanity is that the State of New York is supposed to finance, lease, and build out retail locations on behalf of the licensees.

      “[… The Governor’s] plan is propped up by a $200 million loan fund to help people who have been negatively affected by weed-related convictions open their retail shops, with the first 150 licenses reserved for those with past records. […]

      “Under Hochul’s plan, it’s up to the state to select and lease locations for the dispensaries, including 70 in New York City. Yet the state’s Office of Cannabis Management has not yet announced any locations for dispensaries, anywhere in the state. It also hasn’t said how much has been raised of the $150 million of the $200 million New York Social Equity Cannabis Investment Fund that is supposed to come from the private sector.

      “The state Dormitory Authority, which is overseeing leasing and construction, said in a statement to THE CITY that the dispensaries rollout was always projected to take until 2023, with the first sales planned for the end of 2022. 

      ” ‘DASNY, acting as agent [of] the Fund, has been searching for sites to be potential dispensaries throughout the state and is currently in active discussions with well over 50 property owners,’ spokesperson Jeffrey Gordon said in a statement to THE CITY. […]”

      https://www.thecity.nyc/2022/10/17/23408111/cannabis-dispensaries-hochul-dormitory-authority

  13. Would people complain if these shops sold booze? Just playing the devil!

  14. I have no issue with this. There are liquor stores all over the neighborhood, and it’s nice being able to buy cannabis right near my apartment. Frankly, I’d have no problem with it being sold from bodegas, like beer. What’s the big deal? If somehow (heaven forbid!) a teenager got hold of some cannabis…well, it’s better than them getting hold of alcohol, isn’t it? The main thing is to educate our kids with realistic, accurate information around substance use, so they can make smart choices for themselves.

    • The liquor stores are closely regulated as to who is licensed, what geographical restrictions are imposed, what products they sell, etc., with clear enforcement for both sellers and buyers (e.g., DUI tests, laws, penalties, etc.)

      A regulated, legalized market is far different from the decriminalized Wild West that now exists.

    • Will, I totally agree with you. I don’t see any problem here.I can’t believe people have nothing better to do than figuring out which smoke shop is licensed to sell weed and which one is not. The situation on canal street with “street vendors” selling weed and counterfeit luxury bags is truly annoying because they block the traffic and just pollute the area. But who cares about smoke shops.Women are raped while jogging on west side highway and the former employee of my family member got stabbed to death by a homeless person. And in the meantime people are so bothered by weed. Don’t waste your time figuring out which stores have licenses. They are all seizing the moment and operating in the grey area since selling weed is not a crime anymore. I can’t believe people are complaining about tacky storefront design of these shops. Jesus, what do they expect from a smoke shops storefront? They pay taxes, they pay rent, they create jobs. Nothing is bad about it, on the contrary is very beneficial for economy. The number of negative comments here is a clear sign that demonization of weed is still deeply embedded in our culture. Which is very sad since alcohol consumption is much more detrimental to health than smoking weed.

    • Leave it to NYers to conflate the issue.

      There are laws regulating the sale. Whether or not you agree with the laws or the legalization of the product is irrelevant. If you don’t have a license, you cannot sell.

      I don’t have a license to practice medicine – should start performing outpatient surgery in the old Tribeca Hardware space on Chambers St just because I want to?

      People are doing what they want right now because they know they can get away with it. None of us benefit from that.

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