Assemblymember Amy Paulin Fights Illegal Cannabis Sales with Legislation

Albany, NY – Assemblymember Amy Paulin (D-Scarsdale) announces the filing of legislation she authored (number pending) which fights the illegal sale of marijuana and marijuana-related products. Her bill would establish that any business selling cannabis without a license would be subject to a civil penalty of not less than $2,500 for the first violation, $5,000 for a second violation, and the potential seizure of the business on a third violation. The current fine for a business is a mere $250.

Paulin’s bill would also add language to New York State penal law to clarify that unlicensed cannabis retailers are subject to current laws relating to the unlawful sale of cannabis. Current ambiguity in the law has in some instances impeded police crackdowns on illegal sales at shops, which has allowed them to continue illicitly selling.

New York State legalized adult-use cannabis over a year ago with the passage of the Marihuana Regulation and Taxation Act (MRTA), and the New York State Office of Cannabis Management (OCM) recently issued the State’s first retail recreational cannabis licenses, however many communities across the State already have businesses selling cannabis. These sellers are unlicensed and the product they sell is untaxed, unregulated, and delegitimizes the legal adult-use cannabis industry that the MRTA established. Further, these unlicensed retailers pose a hazard to public health as the products they sell do not undergo the State’s growing, processing and testing requirements. As a result, unknowing consumers run the risk of purchasing contaminated and harmful products.

The adult-use cannabis industry is expected to generate more than 20,000 new jobs and a $4.2 billion market by 2027 in New York State, which may be undermined if the illegal market continues to thrive. “Individuals applying for the appropriate licensure and complying with the law are at an immense disadvantage when other individuals are evading licensing fees, product regulations, and rules set out by the OCM,” said Assemblymember Amy Paulin. “To ensure the legitimacy of the adult-use cannabis industry, we must penalize bad actors in the same manner as we do for other legitimate industries in our state who operate without a required license. We impose escalating penalties for regulated industries in New York State such tobacco retailers and nail salons. The same rules should apply to businesses selling cannabis without a license. Unlicensed retailers who are selling cannabis products should understand that they will be subject to hefty fines and may jeopardize their entire business if they persist in illegal sales of cannabis.”

"The current proliferation of illegal marijuana sales is more than just a nuisance,” said Dylan Pyne, President of the Edgemont Community Council. “It threatens the health, safety and well-being of children in our communities. Under the State law adopted last year, licensed sales of cannabis products are not allowed near schools for obvious reasons - but that’s exactly what is happening right now by unlicensed smoke shops and convenience stores. These unlicensed stores make no secret as to who their target market is, placing merchandise, such as backpacks and cartoon-character themed paraphernalia, which appeal to children in their store windows and then offer ‘under the table’ cannabis products which would be most appealing to children in the form of candies and gummies. I applaud Assemblymember Paulin for taking this step and proposing a bill that will help crack down on this dangerous situation happening in our community and across the state.”

California has struggled with illegal cannabis sales since the state legalized recreational marijuana six years ago. Illegal sales in California have far outpaced the regulated market, and many legal operators have closed as a result. “New York needs to act now to shut down illegal sales before we suffer the same fate as California,” continued Paulin. “We need to support legal marijuana sales before illegal sales take over. If that happens, we run the risk of a continuance of what is happening right now where we see illegal sales near schools, marijuana products illegally showcased in windowfronts, and products being sold without safety standards – all to the detriment of our local communities and New York State.”