While current New York City mayor Eric Adams is content with the status quo of the marijuana marketplace throughout the five boroughs, one of his predecessors thinks something must be done.
In a St. Patrick’s Day opinion piece that was picked up by all the city dailies, Bloomberg surmised the situation in one short sentence: “It’s as easy to buy an ounce of pot as it is a slice of pizza.”
He was referring to the proliferation of more than 1,500 storefronts selling different forms of cannabis, masked as “exotic candy” that is enjoyable for children as well as adults.
The rollout of the state’s Marijuana Regulation and Taxation Act — signed into law last year — has led to mass confusion among law enforcement, small businesses and consumers alike. The intent of the law is to allow for those who were incarcerated for marijuana possession and dealing to be among the first to operate the first licensed “pot” shops in the city.
But potential shop owners discovered how slow this new bureaucracy works under the new state Office of Cannabis Management. Only a handful of shops have received the coveted licensed and go-ahead to open. Meanwhile, droves of illegal, unlicensed shops got a head start as they have continued to open at a breakneck pace since the end of last year.
The mayor and Sheriff Anthony Miranda have tried to go after the illegal shops by closing some and confiscating the cannabis. One major problem is since the decriminalization of marijuana use went into effect, the New York Police Department does not know how to enforce this law, since it is no longer a crime to sell and use the drug.
That is why the sheriff’s office has to conduct the raids. Back in February, they had seized more than $4 million worth of products and issued more than 560 civil and criminal summonses to store operators.
Bloomberg, who ran New York for 12 years, is incredulous and upset about how the current administration is handling the cannabis debacle.
“Last year, illegal vendors did about $2 billion in sales statewide — better than Broadway shows,” he wrote. “Just think about what signal it sends to criminals that government is unwilling to crack down on so many storefronts selling drugs illegally — often to children.”
We suggested one way to resolve the problem with the unlicensed pot shops, including many located on Broadway in Kingsbridge. Simply come up with an amnesty program to allow unlicensed shops to be grandfathered in the new system. They could pay fines equal to the sales tax they would pay if they were a licensed shop. But they would be required to apply for — and be granted — a license if they want to continue to operate.
The former mayor points out the flawed logic of the state cannabis law.
In his op-ed, Bloomberg wrote New York state legalized cannabis “as a way to increase tax revenue, establish a safe marketplace, and reduce arrests and criminal penalties.
“But experience has shown that the only way to achieve the first two goals is to abandon the third, by cracking down on the illegal stores that undercut legal sellers. And the only way to achieve the third goal is to abandon the first two.”
No matter how you look at it, there doesn’t seem to be an easy fix for the cannabis conundrum. But doing nothing is not an answer.
Mayor Adams has to actively address this problem before the entirety of the city smells like a stoner’s paradise.
And yet, the city coffers are not benefiting from all the illegal recreational weed.