Now that cannabis is legal in New York, the police’s job has changed. They’re there to get the trucks to pay their parking tickets.
Times have changed quickly in New York.
Earlier this week, the city set out to shut down illegal weed operations in Times Square.
But instead of sending in the Drug Enforcement Task Force as it might have just a few years ago, the NYPD sent the Community Response Team.
That unit polices quality-of-life issues in the city, like illegal ATVs and fake license plates.
The trucks weren’t targeted because they were selling weed edibles. They were removed because they were technically selling them illegally without a license.
Cannabis is legal in New York, but the state has not issued any licenses to retailers to sell the drug.
“Many people don’t read the complete law. All they read is, ‘Weed is legal,’ and they just kick into gear,” Mayor Eric Adams said of the seizures, according to the New York Post.
“We have to now identify when people are reporting illegal weed being sold — which is far more stores than we realize — and then there’s steps to going in and confiscating those items.”
Times Square: Prime Real Estate for Pot
Nearly all the 19 trucks that were seized had out-of-state license plates, the Daily News reported. The trucks’ drivers were given administrative summonses, which will likely require the owners to pay a fine before the trucks are returned.
Times Square sees as many as 450,000 visitors daily and the cannabis trucks have staked out prime real estate in the area to take advantage of the foot traffic.
But drivers often sleep in their trucks overnight, according to the Daily News, so the trucks rarely moved from their spots.
This isn’t the first time the city has taken enforcement action against the weed trucks.
In June, the city sheriff’s office towed away 12 Weed World trucks due to unpaid parking tickets totaling $500,000. Earlier this week, Weed World said it paid $200,000 of that fine and has an installment plan with the city to pay the rest.
New York Cease and Desist
New York may have legalized cannabis months ago, but the infrastructure for the recreational market is still being built.
The state hasn’t given a firm date for when legal cannabis sales can begin, but there are expectations that the market will be open by year’s end.
In the meantime, dozens of New Yorkers have gone forward with setting up their own cannabis businesses.
In July, the state’s Office of Cannabis Management released the unredacted letters it sent to 66 storefronts across the state after months of pressure from Gothamist.
Entrepreneurs have resorted to using two business models that the OCM says engage in “unlicensed cannabis sales.”
Business owners have resorted to “gifting” cannabis to customers who buy something else from the shop.
The other method is a membership model where clients pay to join a club that provides the cannabis free.
“You are hereby directed to cease any, and all, illegal activity immediately,” the unredacted cease-and-desist letters said.
“Failure to cease this activity puts your ability to obtain a license in the legal cannabis market at substantial risk.”
The letter says that unlicensed sales undermine the legal market that the state is building and that the landlords hosting illegal retail locations could be jeopardizing their ability to house licensed retail dispensaries.