New York Calls on Online Platforms to Cease Listing Illegal Cannabis Dispensaries

In a bid to tackle the rampant spread of unlicensed cannabis dispensaries across New York City, Gov. Kathy Hochul has turned to online mapping and social media platforms, urging them to cease listing illegal cannabis dispensaries. Since the state’s legalization of marijuana in 2021, the unregulated market has flourished, presenting a significant challenge.

Hochul, a Democrat, highlighted the ease with which individuals can locate illegal cannabis dispensaries through popular platforms such as Google Maps and Yelp. She emphasized the prevalence of unlicensed vendors, noting the disproportionate representation they hold compared to their legal counterparts.

Licensed cannabis operators joined Hochul to voice support for more protections. “The presence of illicit operators siphons away dollars dedicated to communities that legal dispensaries are located in,” said Alfredo Angueira, co-founder of Con Bud in New York City, according to ABC 7 in New York.

Pushback From Online Platforms

In response to Hochul’s call for action, online review platform Yelp defended its stance, asserting consumers’ First Amendment rights to access and discuss all businesses, regardless of licensure status. The company argued that user-contributed information about unlicensed businesses serves the public interest and aids regulators in identifying compliance issues.

Licensed marijuana dispensaries in New York face a myriad of challenges, including stringent eligibility criteria, legal disputes, and a sluggish rollout process. Despite efforts to promote compliance and quality control, the number of authorized cannabis stores remains relatively low, with fewer than 80 establishments currently operating statewide.

Meanwhile, illegal dispensaries continue to proliferate, particularly in densely populated urban areas like New York City, where regulatory enforcement has struggled to keep pace with demand.

Hurdles to Curbing New York Illegal Cannabis

While legislation signed by Hochul in May granted the state enhanced enforcement powers, including inspections, fines and shop closures, challenges persist in curbing illegal cannabis sales. Hochul acknowledged that existing penalties may not be sufficient deterrents, with appeals processes prolonging the closure of illicit establishments.

Furthermore, the lack of severe criminal sanctions for illegal sales, coupled with limited enforcement authority for law enforcement agencies, complicates efforts to combat the underground cannabis market effectively.

Illegal cannabis operations have been a problem across the country. Some states, including Connecticut, are taking unprecedented steps to get illegal operations to join the legal cannabis system.

In light of these challenges, Hochul has vowed to reassess the state’s approach to cannabis regulation, acknowledging the need for more robust enforcement measures. Efforts to empower local authorities and enhance regulatory oversight are underway, with Mayor Eric Adams advocating for greater municipal authority to address the proliferation of illegal dispensaries within New York City.

As New York grapples with the complexities of cannabis legalization, the collaboration between state and local officials, alongside online platforms, will be essential in safeguarding public health and promoting responsible cannabis commerce.

Copyright © 2015-2024 All Rights Reserved.