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As New York State’s weed legalization process moves slower than a stoner getting up off the couch, industry advocates warn that unlicensed producers will continue to hotbox the market with weakened and potentially contaminated weed.
A recent study from a trio of Tri-State cannabis trade associations found that at least 40 percent of products from a survey of 20 unlicensed New York marijuana stores contained E. coli, salmonella, pesticides and heavy metals.
“Many of the products tested did not contain the amount of THC advertised on the label — and in one case, featured double the amount of listed THC. After reviewing the items under the state’s proposed branding regulations, 100 percent of the products failed,” read the study.
“Allowing these unregulated, illicit operations to continue operating with impunity will only exacerbate an already alarming public health trend, especially among teens and young adults who either are unaware of or choose to ignore the health risks,” it added. “Sellers providing illicit and potentially dangerous products, which are easily and readily available in the gray market, risk consumer safety and threaten public confidence in the adult-use industry before it even begins.”
New Yorkers expressed frustration with the state’s drawn-out legalization process, citing the delay in finalizing dispensary regulations and a minimal availability of licenses (legislators approved just 36 licenses across the state last week).
“This is 100% on the gov and the legislature for failing to get the ball rolling,” posted one commenter on Reddit. “We need to issue licenses before people can operate legally, they literally just announced the first licenses a week or two ago. The law was passed March 31, 2021.”
Another added, “We are nearing two years — ‘It is legal, but you can’t buy it legally’ is a ridiculous idea, and brings forth all of these issues like subpar quality, potentially dangerous items in it, no regulation, etc. Not to mention, there is no revenue coming in right now. That revenue would be really helpful somewhere I am sure.”
In Midtown, where gray market smoke shops thrive, there is no brand more recognizable than the notorious Weed World trucks, known not only for proliferating the market with misleadingly advertised products but also for amassing hundreds of thousands of dollars in parking tickets that led the NYPD to seize dozens of the vehicles. Owner Bilal Muhammad has repeatedly maintained that his products are CBD (cannabidiol, the non-pychoactive component in hemp) exclusive, though many of the Weed World signage purports to peddle “THC” ( the psychoactive tetrahydrocannabinol). A license is still required to sell CBD products, which Muhammad confirmed to the New York Times that he did not possess.
But as for finding a solution to the Wild West of Weed World, the city also seems to struggle to clear the air. According to the Times, the Mayor’s office is resistant to actively pursuing the enforcement of legalization laws, citing the ghost of the war on drugs as a deterrent for involving law enforcement.
Adams said in a press conference that “A police officer can’t just walk in and conduct an apprehension, or an arrest, or confiscate the item,” as the NYPD told the Times that “in its view, the legalization law does not give officers the authority to make seizures or arrests when they see cannabis displayed, or to shut down unlicensed shops.”
Other legal advocates say that while legal licenses languish, shutting down smoke shops will ultimately put thousands of workers out of business. Paula Collins, an attorney for smoke shop and weed bodega owners told the Times: “We have all these shops popping up, everybody’s concerned, and at the same time, we’re missing out on all of this good tax revenue.”
Meanwhile, it seems that New Jersey continues to lead the pack in potent and purified product.