Sheriff's smoke shop raid ends in arrests, fines

Three unlicensed stores allegedly selling illegal weed are hit in 50th, 23rd precincts


A smoke shop at 206 W. 231st St., was raided by the New York City’s Sheriff Department on Monday, April 17 at approximately 2 p.m. Officers were seen on video taking large plastic bags of merchandise out of 206 Candy & Convenience Inc. and placed in a black van.

The operators of the smoke shop were arrested and charged with criminal possession of cannabis   and criminal possession of a controlled substance.

According to a Tuesday press release from the Office of the City Sheriff, this raid was a part of a inspection of three smoke shops conducted by a task force in the 23rd and 50th precincts that resulted in five arrests. There were also 31 notices of violations that includes 163 violations and $168,600 estimated in penalties that were given out.

The press release also listed the contraband items seized: cartons of untaxed cigarettes, packages of other tobacco products, flavored vape products, THC vapes, packages of THC flower weighing 35.94 pounds, THC pre-roll weighing 4.53 pounds, and packages of THC edibles weighing 202.12 pounds.

The raid at 206 Candy & Convenience is part of the NYC Sheriff’s Office’s crackdown on unregulated cannabis vendors. Mayor Eric Adams announced last November that the city’s sheriff office would be working with other agencies on a daily basis to combat unlicensed and unregulated smoke shops.

Since marijuana was legalized in 2021, New York state has issued more than 60 licenses, with only a  small handful actually open to customers. Yet, authorities believe there are an estimated 1,400 unlicensed smoke shops operating in the five boroughs.

Lt. Timothy Haney of the 50th Precinct gave a brief report regarding the raid at the Community Board 8 meeting on Wednesday, April 19. He spoke of a crime spike this month, with the biggest contributors being robberies and grand larcenies.

The April 17 raid was the sheriff’s response to numerous complaints across the city about illegal smoke shops. Because laws regarding cannabis have changed, they are unable to really enforce them on the issue of marijuana itself, Haney said.

Enforcing those laws falls under the state cannabis management office. The sheriff’s office is able to enforce issues like not having proper business licenses and not collecting sales tax.

Smoke shops in the city are dangerous, Councilman Eric Dinowitz said. Especially with 206 W. 231st St., just blocks from a Spuyten Duyvil preschool. He criticized unlicensed smoke shops for lack of oversight and understating the state’s legalization of cannabis.

“We don’t know if these products are real,” Dinowitz said.

On the site of 206 Candy & Convenience Inc. on Wednesday, April 19, people entered the smoke shop casually. You would have never guessed that the store was just raided by police a few days ago. The only thing out of the norm was the security guard who stood in front of the entrance.

The guard told The Riverdale Press he was hired to keep reporters out and prevent them from cluttering the interior, and also to keep the peace. Referencing the assault of a police officer that took place during the raid, he said, “You’ve gotta be crazy to hit a cop.”

The smoke shop around the corner presented a similar level of apprehension and unwillingness to talk to reporters.

Many people on the street had heard about the raid and the assault of a police officer, but had not witnessed it themselves. One passerby, a man, said usually nothing the likes of what took place on Monday happens in the neighborhood.

The Kingsbridge Business Improvement District said everyone in the neighborhood is upset. They criticized the five illegal pot shops and the “weak” rules being used to try and close them. Because of the changes in laws, the district has unresolved issues. That said, it is still a safe and friendly neighborhood, the Kingsbridge BID says.

A vendor outside of a smoke shop a few blocks away described how he is just a person trying to make a living. He criticized the inspections and laws regarding marijuana, “If I can walk to the precinct smoking and ask for directions, why can’t I sell it at a shop?”

smoke shops, raid, 50th Precinct, 23rd Precinct, unlicensed, weed, cannabis, 206 Candy & Convenience Store