Illegal weed stores to be evicted as part of Eric Adams crackdown

Mayor Eric Adams filed lawsuits against four establishments, including two that are blocks away from NYU’s campus, which were selling cannabis without licensing, the first step in what he called a “laser-focused” plan to protect New Yorkers.


Yezen Saadah

An unlicensed cannabis dispensary on Broadway, near Astor Place. (Yezen Saadah for WSN)

Tori Morales, News Editor

Prosecutors will begin to crack down on unlicensed cannabis vendors across Manhattan, according to a Tuesday announcement by New York City Mayor Eric Adams and District Attorney Alvin Bragg. The city filed public nuisance lawsuits against four unlicensed dispensaries in the Ninth Precinct — and the landlords of the buildings that house them. Across the borough, hundreds more have received letters warning them of potential eviction if unlicensed sales continue.

Since former governor Andrew Cuomo signed a bill legalizing recreational cannabis use in March 2021, over 1,400 shops have started to sell the drug, according to the testimony of New York City Sheriff Anthony Miranda. While New York state launched a recreational dispensary licensing program in November, only 66 locations have been licensed so far.

“Legalizing cannabis was a major step forward for equity and justice — but we’re not going to take two steps back by letting illegal smoke shops take over this emerging market,” Adams said in a Tuesday morning press conference. “We are laser-focused on protecting the health and well-being of New Yorkers and ensuring this emerging industry delivers equity to those who deserve it the most.”

Prosecutors claimed that the four locations are public nuisances, a legal term for any building or place which is used for an unlicensed activity or enterprise. The stores are also being held liable for breaking the state’s Cannabis Law, which outlines the legal requirements for the sale of cannabis. The city also sent out over 400 letters to warn unlicensed sellers and their landlords of a decades-old provision that allows the city to force owners to evict commercial tenants that are engaged in illegal activity.

Police conducted undercover investigations at all four stores — which are located on Broadway, Avenue A, St. Marks Place and First Avenue — to obtain samples of the illegally dispensed cannabis. In all four cases, the smoke shops also sold cannabis to underage volunteers assisting with the investigations.

While the drug is legal, the unlicensed sale of cannabis has been shown to create additional risks for consumers. A November 2022 analysis found that 40% of cannabis products purchased at unlicensed stores in New York City failed safety tests administered to legal cannabis, and multiple contained heavy metals — which can cause cancer and organ failure with prolonged exposure. Vitamin E oil, which is sometimes used to dilute cannabis oil for vaping, was also associated with a string of cannabis vaping deaths in 2019.

Correction (Feb. 9): An earlier version of this story misstated New York City Sheriff Anthony Miranda’s title. The story has been corrected, and WSN regrets the error.

Yezen Saadah contributed reporting. Contact Tori Morales at [email protected].