NYC Will Force Landlords to Evict Illegal Weed Shops

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New York City plans to require landlords to evict illegal weed sellers in Manhattan and will take on the eviction proceedings itself if a property owner fails to act, Mayor Eric Adams and Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg announced Tuesday. 

Under the city’s new initiative, retailers that sell marijuana without one of the 66 licenses the state has given out so far will be evicted from their retail shop, their goods will be confiscated, and they could be hit with a $5,000 fine, Adams said. 

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The DA already sent out letters to 400 illicit smoke shops in Manhattan warning them it will force landlords to evict tenants breaking the cannabis retail law.

“We won’t stop until every illegal smoke shop is rolled up and stubbed out,” Adams said in the press conference. “You can’t just open a shop and sell marajuana. There are rules, and we must abide by those rules in a real way.”

The Adams administration has attempted to crack down on the illegal cannabis industry, which he blamed for crowding out the nascent regulated market, by relying on the New York City Police Department and the New York City Sheriff’s Office to shut down illicit retailers and seize their product, Bragg said. Now, the city is going after their leases. 

“This strategy of taking their leases is on a whole different level,” Manhattan Borough President Mark Levine said. “They’re making so much money, and they’re seeing the lost product and the fines they’re paying as the cost of doing business.”

Bragg said he hoped the warning would put landlords on notice, but that his office was prepared to take the 400 eviction cases to court, prioritizing stopping operators selling near legal retailers. Adams said the focus on the program was only in Manhattan, but that the DA’s office would “share” the results of the program with other counties.

The city expects the legal cannabis industry to bring in $40 million in tax revenues per year and support between 19,000 and 24,000 local jobs, though the market has faced a slow rollout.

The New York State Cannabis Control Board, which regulates the industry, awarded another 30 retail licenses to cannabis sellers in January, bringing the total number of licensed operators to 66. But only two have opened: Housing Works Cannabis Company. at 750 Broadway and Smacked at 144 Bleecker Street. At the same time, more than 1,400 unlicensed retailers sell marijuana in Gotham, said Levine. 

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