Gov. Hochul Unveils Signage to Identify Legal Cannabis Dispensaries

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New Yorkers won’t have to guess if that weed shop is legit.

The state revealed signage that will be used to help customers identify legal cannabis dispensaries as the state continues to crack down on a burgeoning crop of illegal retailers that have set up shop around the city, Gov. Kathy Hochul announced Thursday.

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The Office of Cannabis Management (OCM) will distribute green signs with a QR code that shows a list of licensed retail dispensaries, and the state plans to launch an education campaign to advertise the health risks of buying unregulated weed early next year, according to Hochul. 

OCM will also provide a website version of the sign to retailers making home deliveries of marijuana, which the state allowed last week to help get sales up and running before sellers can lease storefronts.

“These tools will help to protect public health and strengthen our ability to deliver the equitable cannabis market our law envisions,” Hochul said. “We will continue to work with our partners in municipalities across the state to enforce the law and shut down illicit operators who are selling products that put New Yorkers at risk.” 

New York has cracked down on unregulated cannabis sellers in recent months as the slow rollout of legal retailers shifts into a higher gear. In November, New York City launched a task force to stop illicit sales, seizing $2.5 million worth of weed products within its first week of operating, Bloomberg reported. And just on Thursday, Queens District Attorney Melinda Katz charged two men for operating an illegal marijuana dispensary from a converted school bus in Rockaway Park, Queens, “undercutting the legal sellers before they are even able to get started,” Katz said in a statement.  

Aside from competition from the illegal market, Legal retailers have also faced a slow permitting process. 

The Cannabis Control Board approved only 36 licenses for retailers in late November, out of up to 175 due to be available statewide. While Hochul hoped to have 20 dispensaries open before 2023, the first lease for a licensed store was signed just in December, and the nonprofit Housing Works doesn’t plan to open its first dispensary until Dec. 29

Celia Young can be reached at cyoung@commercialobserver.com.