Mayor gives cannabis shop at W. 261st the boot


Last month, Mayor Eric Adams vowed to shut down unlicensed smoke and cannabis shops throughout the boroughs, and, shortly thereafter, a local smoke shop was closed for unlicensed products.

Exotic Land once stood at 466 W. 261st St., as a smoke shop but it was shut down permanently May 24 for the unlicensed sale of cannabis and flavored vapes.

The sale of flavored vapes was banned in 2020 in an attempt to minimize vaping among children and teens, with flavored being defined as anything other than tobacco or menthol.

Currently, the law for cannabis sales in New York City requires vendors are licensed before they are allowed to grow, process or sell cannabis of any kind.

Evan Zwisler, a Riverdale resident, said everybody knew the shop was there but he felt it was benign.

“There’s still tons of these places open, they’re just going to move to a different location,” Zwisler said. “It’s a complete waste of the city’s time and energy to do this. These people aren’t hurting anybody.”

A local business owner who wished to remain anonymous said she’s glad the mayor is cracking down on illegal smoke shops. She said the crowd Exotic Land brought in was a rowdy one, and the location of the shop was confusing to her considering the Riverdale area leans towards an older crowd but the shop’s proximity to the University of Mount Saint Vincent was not lost on her.

Part of the mayor’s crackdown on illegal shops is aimed at the danger they pose to children and their illegal sale to underage individuals.

A licensed cannabis shop by the name of Frass Box is expected to open in Kingsbridge, located at 3633 Kingsbridge Ave. Frass Box owner Daphne Borowski told The Press the process to become a legalized cannabis shop was long and difficult and has taken two years to get to this point.

Cannabis users must be over 21 and cannot have more than three ounces of cannabis or 24 grams of concentrated cannabis outside. However, in the home of any individual, users may possess up to five pounds of cannabis.

As part of the mayor’s May initiative, he announced local law enforcement was not eligible to inspect and shut down illegal smoke and cannabis shops. Prior to this change, the city sheriff, Anthony Miranda, and his office were responsible for enforcing the law but the change in procedure is expected to tackle the rising number of illegal shops quicker.

Current procedure enables local law enforcement to work alongside the Sheriff’s Joint Compliance Task Force to complete inspections and follow-ups on businesses. Once an establishment has been shut down, local New York Police Department precincts are left to monitor the shops and follow through on compliance.

Cannabis was legalized in the state only three years ago, and, in that time, 132 cannabis dispensaries have opened legally according to the city’s cannabis management office. Of the 132 dispensaries in the state, 62 reside in the city.

Paula Collins, a New York City attorney representing unlicensed cannabis shops, told Crain’s New York Business in August 2023 she estimates there to be 8,000 unlicensed shops throughout the city.

Adams estimated there to be 2,900 illegal shops in the city when discussing his plan to shut them down in May.

To identify themselves as licensed and legal shops, businesses must display a government issued sticker that states it’s a licensed dispensary and include a bar code customers can scan to verify the shop’s licensed status. The sticker must be present in the front window of the establishment in order to meet state guidelines.

Listed in Exotic Land’s violations is its proximity to a school, house of worship, or public youth facility. The shop was located across the intersection from the property line of the University of Mount Saint Vincent. And just shy of the 500-foot proximity law is Saint Margaret of Cortona Church on Riverdale Avenue.

Officials with the 50th Precinct said they have shut down other local illegal cannabis shops recently including Pot Shop, Game Over, and The Cannabis and The Flower.


Eric Adams, unlicensed smoke shops, illegal cannabis sales, Exotic Land closure, NYC cannabis laws, flavored vapes ban, cannabis legalization, Riverdale community impact