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. 

weed joint smoke
Tests found that some unlicensed stores were selling contaminated cannabis. Photo: Chase Fade/Unsplash

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.” 

Smoke Shop in former T-Mobile Store
Kiss My Smoke — smoke shops have proliferated along 9th Avenue. This store replaced T-Mobile on the corner of W34th Street. Photo: Phil O’Brien

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.”

Weed Trucks NYPD towed
Weed Trucks impounded at a temporary NYPD tow area on 11th Avenue. Photo: Phil O’Brien

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.

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  1. Fear of Cannabis Legalization Nationwide is unfounded. Not based on any science or fact whatsoever. So please prohibitionists, we beg you to give your scare tactics, “Conspiracy Theories” and “Doomsday Scenarios” over the inevitable Legalization of Cannabis Nationwide a rest. Nobody is buying them anymore these days. Okay?

    Furthermore, if all prohibitionists get when they look into that nice, big and shiny crystal ball of theirs, while wondering about the future of cannabis legalization, is horror, doom, and despair, well then I suggest they return that thing as quickly as possible and reclaim the money they shelled out for it, since it’s obviously defective.

    The prohibition of cannabis has not decreased the supply nor the demand for cannabis at all. Not one single iota, and it never will. Just a huge and complete waste of our tax dollars to continue criminalizing citizens for choosing a natural, non-toxic, relatively benign plant proven to be much safer than alcohol.

    If prohibitionists are going to take it upon themselves to worry about “saving us all” from ourselves, then they need to start with the drug that causes more death and destruction than every other drug in the world COMBINED, which is alcohol!

    Why do prohibitionists feel the continued need to vilify and demonize cannabis when they could more wisely focus their efforts on a real, proven killer, alcohol, which again causes more destruction, violence, and death than all other drugs, COMBINED?

    Prohibitionists really should get their priorities straight and/or practice a little live and let live. They’ll live longer, happier, and healthier, with a lot less stress if they refrain from being bent on trying to control others through Draconian Cannabis Laws.

    1. Cannabis consumers deserve and demand equal rights and protections under our laws that are currently afforded to the drinkers of far more dangerous and deadly, yet perfectly legal, widely accepted, endlessly advertised and even glorified as an All-American pastime, alcohol.

      Plain and simple!

      Legalize Nationwide Federally Now!

      The “War on Cannabis” has been a complete and utter failure. It is the largest component of the broader yet equally unsuccessful “War on Drugs” that has cost our country over a trillion dollars.

      Instead of The United States wasting Billions upon Billions more of our yearly tax dollars fighting a never ending “War on Cannabis”, lets generate Billions of dollars, and improve the deficit instead. Especially now, due to Covid-19. It’s a no brainer.

      The Prohibition of Cannabis has also ruined the lives of many of our loved ones. In numbers greater than any other nation, our loved ones are being sent to jail and are being given permanent criminal records. Especially, if they happen to be of the “wrong” skin color or they happen to be from the “wrong” neighborhood. Which ruin their chances of employment for the rest of their lives, and for what reason?

      Cannabis is much safer to consume than alcohol. Yet do we lock people up for choosing to drink?

      Let’s end this hypocrisy now!

      The government should never attempt to legislate morality by creating victim-less cannabis “crimes” because it simply does not work and costs the taxpayers a fortune.

      Cannabis Legalization Nationwide is an inevitable reality that’s approaching much sooner than prohibitionists think and there is nothing they can do to stop it!

      Legalize Nationwide! Support Each and Every Cannabis Legalization Initiative!

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