A Queens pol has introduced legislation targeting landlords who knowingly rent space to stores illegally selling cannabis.
The bill, introduced last month by Forest Hills Council Member Lynn Schulman, would require commercial landlords to evict unlicensed cannabis distributors or face fines.
The legislation, which is sponsored by 21 council members, would require authorities to put landlords on notice when they bust storefronts operating an unlicensed marijuana business.
The Sheriff’s office, NYPD and other agencies would have to issue a written notice to landlords that a bust had been made and that their tenants are operating an unlicensed cannabis business.
Should authorities make another cannabis-related bust and eviction proceedings have not begun, the landlord would be subject to an initial $1,000 fine — with subsequent fines being $2,000.
Currently just five businesses in New York City are licensed to sell weed. Meanwhile, the city estimates that there are at least 1,400 vendors selling it illegally from storefronts.
“I am proud to introduce Intro. 1001, which would prohibit landlords from knowingly leasing commercial space to tenants who use the premises for the distribution and sale of cannabis or cannabis products without a license,” Schulman said on the council floor last month. “Many of these shops sell adulterated products and also sell to children.”
Council Member Erik Bottcher told his colleagues at last month’s meeting that he, too supports the bill, chiding the state for allegedly being slow to issue licenses. He said the delay has given rise to an illegal marketplace, given that marijuana possession was legalized two years ago.
“It is a total embarrassment how our state has botched the legalization of cannabis — by legalizing it and then waiting two years before issuing legal licenses. So, now I think we have like four [four in Manhattan and one in Queens] legal licenses…and thousands of unlicensed cannabis sellers. They are next to schools. They are selling to minors. “
The state legalized cannabis in March 2021 and the Office of Cannabis Management (OCM) was tasked with establishing the licensing structure for businesses to sell recreational marijuana.
Schulman said that the legislation is also needed as a means of helping those vendors who are licensed. The state is currently licensing individuals who were caught in the justice system stemming from the war on drugs in the name of equity. The state is also prioritizing non-profits that work with these people.
“Allowing these shops to proliferate is bad for our communities and also robs those who have been involved in the criminal justice system from getting a legal license and operating a legitimate business and moving forward with their lives.”
The legal dispensaries are required to sell product that is grown in New York State and is tested to ensure there are no impurities. Critics of OCM say that the plethora of unlicensed stores has resulted in the circulation of large quantities of untested product that could potentially be harmful to consumers.
Schulman’s bill has generated bipartisan support, with Republicans such as Vickie Paladino and Joann Ariola backing it, as well as progressives such as Christopher Marte and Chi Ossé in support.
The bill comes two months after Mayor Eric Adams and Manhattan District Attorney Bragg said that they plan to evict businesses illegally selling cannabis via a public nuisance law. The policy calls on landlords to kick such tenants out or else the sheriff’s office will do so. Authorities say they have notified hundreds of smoke shops that they are at risk of being evicted.