STATEN ISLAND, N.Y. – Former New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg said New York’s weed laws have failed to include criminal enforcement, allowing illegal dispensaries to open across the state before legal dispensaries, Bloomberg said in his Bloomberg.com column.
The former mayor said it’s now as “easy to buy an ounce of pot as it is a slice of pizza. The state took so long to get a licensing operation up and running that entrepreneurs had nearly two years to establish illicit operations – and they took full advantage.”
Former Governor Andrew Cuomo singed the Marijuana Regulation and Taxation Act into law in March 2021, but no dispensaries opened while he was still in office. When Gov. Kathy Hochul became governor after Cuomo’s resignation, she said one of her “top priorities” would be to get the state’s cannabis industry up and running.
As of March 2023, there are four legal weed dispensaries open for business, two in New York City and two in upstate New York.
A spokeswoman for Hochul’s office told the NY Post, “We continue to work with our partners to enforce the law and to explore every possible mechanism available to protect New Yorkers and shut down illegal operations,” in response to Bloomberg’s column.
He said there are around 1,500 illegal weed dispensaries in the five boroughs, and across the state illegal operations made about $2 billion in sales.
“Just think about the signal it sends to criminals that government is unwilling to crack down on so many storefronts selling drugs illegally – often to children,” Bloomberg said.
He went on to site data from the American Academy of Pediatrics that says there was an increase of 1,375% in reported cases of children younger than age six ingesting cannabis edibles between 2017 and 2021. He also said drug and alcohol incidents are up in New York City public schools by 29% over the past year.
The former mayor blames illegal pot shops.
“About a decade after states began legalizing recreational marijuana use, there’s little doubt who the biggest winners have been: criminals. And it’s equally apparent who the biggest losers have been: kids. New York state’s disastrous experiment with legalization is making both of those facts painfully – and dangerously – obvious,” he said.
A City Hall spokesman told the NY Post, “The state has laid out a process of obtaining legal cannabis dispensary licenses, and we must make sure they are distributed fairly and equitably. But those cutting the line are hurting hard-working, law-abiding business owners who are following the rules. And even more, they are threatening the health and well-being of vulnerable young people and all New Yorkers. Since November, the city’s interagency task force has seized millions of dollars in illicit products and issued hundreds of violations to noncompliant businesses.”
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