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High Noon: The Manhattan Cannabis Crackdown

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Imagine, if you will, a cadre of regulators, like sheriffs in an old western, striding down the dusty streets of New York City. Their mission? To bring law and order to the Wild West of Manhattan’s burgeoning cannabis landscape.

In a recent New York Post Article: NY Gov. Kathy Hochul weeds out NYC’s illegal pot shops By Carl Campanile, it’s described that on Thursday, New York State regulators raided seven unlicensed Manhattan smoke shops for illegally selling flowered marijuana and other cannabis products — the first such enforcement taken under a beefed up law approved by Gov. Kathy Hochul and the legislature.

These aren’t just any regulators; they’re a newly minted posse from the Office of Cannabis Management and Tax Department. Their quarry? A septet of unregulated marijuana bodegas peddling their illicit, untested, and unregulated cannabis wares to an unsuspecting public without the required licenses or permits. And on this particular Wednesday, their time of reckoning has come.

Amidst the hustle and bustle of city life, the posse strikes swiftly, their green badges glinting under the city lights. They raid the stores, seizing copious amounts of dried cannabis and THC-infused goodies. Their notices of violation and orders to cease unlicensed activity flutter like ill omens in the air, painting a grim picture for the future of these establishments. Unregulated cannabis products still pose a significant risk to public health and safety as they could be mislabeled, their potency unknown, they could be adulterated, contain harmful amounts of pesticides (or other dangerous chemicals or undeclared drugs) and often lack important child safety features. Let alone the products often boast packaging that resembles other commercially available products, which can easily confuse even unsuspecting adults.

The shops face a hefty toll for their bold transgressions. Each passing day sees a fine of up to $10,000, an amount that would make even the most hardened of criminal entrepreneurs wince. And if they dare to continue their illicit trade, the regulators stand ready to call upon the stern gaze of the state Supreme Court, who can force the padlocks onto their doors for good. But will these compliance and enforcement actions be enough to sway these fly-by-night smoke shop operators from all shuttering up? Certainly, not in the near future. The time of prohition lead to many seemingly law-abiding citizens storing large amounts of prohibition-era gin in their bathtubs, as dramatized in the motion picture Annie (1982).

These bustling bazaars of commerce in a less-regulated age, now face a storm of consequences. Among them, ‘Varieties on Broadway’, ‘Roll 2 Nation’, ‘Baby Jeeter’, ‘Maze’, ‘LaGuardia Smoke’, ‘Nomad’, and ‘Play Lane’ – all stand accused in the court of law.

The strike marks a turning point in the administration of Governor Kathy Hochul, a clear indication that the Wild West era of Manhattan’s illicit cannabis business is drawing to a close. As the smoke clears, the question remains – will the shops comply, or will they face the full brunt of the law? Only time will tell. One thing for certain, legalization in New York is not an event, it remains a long, drawn-out process.