Assemblymember John Zaccaro, Jr., Hails Budget Victory over Illegal Smoke Shops

Final Budget will include power to revoke tobacco, liquor, or lottery licenses of businesses for possessing or selling illegal cannabis

Albany, NY – Assemblymember John Zaccaro, Jr., announces that the final state budget includes new enforcement powers to revoke the tobacco, liquor or lottery licenses of businesses that possess or sell illegal cannabis. 

Assemblymember Zaccaro hails this budget victory over the illegal smoke shops that have been pervasive across New York City and New York State. These illegal stores know they have faced minimal consequences for their actions, resulting in decreased quality of life for surrounding communities. Assemblymember Zaccaro, Jr., has partnered with the New York City Sheriff's Office on multiple targeted inspections throughout the 80th Assembly District to stem the tide of illegal cannabis in the Bronx. 

Under the final state budget is a violation of the cannabis law by a holder of a license that has been issued by the State Liquor Authority, a registration issued by the Commissioner of Taxation and Finance to sell cigarettes, tobacco products, or vapor products at retail, or a lottery sales agent license issued by the division of lottery, the Office of Cannabis Management shall issue a notice of violation to the owner or their agent that clearly states that the holder's state licenses, permits, or registrations may be at risk of revocation or suspension. 

This notice must also clearly state that the holder's business may be subject to an order to seal if upon a subsequent violation that the Office of Cannabis Management finds that the violation has not been abated. The Office of Cannabis Management will be required to notify the agency that issued the authorization that the holder is in violation. 

This new enforcement power to provide New York with the ability to revoke or suspend cigarette, alcohol and lottery licenses was first proposed by Assemblymember John Zaccaro, Jr., in bill A9520, gaining significant bipartisan support in the legislature. The bill was also strongly supported by prominent cannabis industry associations like the Empire Cannabis Manufacturers Association, the Cannabis Association of New York and Dutchie. 

"When I was elected to office, I made a promise to hear my community and focus legislation on issues that would best benefit them. Targeting businesses that break the law and brazenly sell illegal cannabis has been a top priority for my office and this victory is the result of our hard work,” said Assemblymember John Zaccaro, Jr. “Revoking tobacco, liquor, and lottery licenses for bad actors is a critical tool to stem the tide of illegal and unregulated cannabis in our communities – but our work continues. I commend my colleagues in the legislature for their bipartisan support of A9520 and I deeply thank all the advocates representing New York’s cannabis industry for making their voices heard in Albany.” 

In order to combat the growing epidemic of businesses circumventing the state's cannabis laws, the Assemblymember along with his colleagues in the New York State Legislature have taken further steps to strengthen enforcement. The expanded enforcement powers in the final FY24/25 State Budget include:

  • The Office of Cannabis Management may issue an immediate order to seal with an immediate effective date if such order is based upon a finding by the office of an imminent threat to public health, safety and welfare. 
  • The factors that will determine an imminent threat to public health, safety and welfare are
    • (1) documented sales to minors, 
    • (2) unlicensed processing of cannabis at a building or premises, 
    • (3) orders issued following an inspection wherein a person engaged in the unlicensed activity engaged in violent, tumultuous, or other behaviors indicating expressed intent to not comply with the Office's order to cease the unlicensed activity, 
    • (4) documented presence of unlawful firearms at the building or premises, 
    • (5) proximity of the business or premises to schools, houses of worship or public youth facilities,
    • (6) presence of products deemed unsafe based on reports of illness or hospitalizations; or 
    • (7) sales of, or offers to sell, cannabis products not tested or labeled lawfully in accordance with cannabis law.
  • The Office of the City Sheriff shall have the authority to conduct regularity inspections of any place of business, including a vehicle used as a business, where cannabis, cannabis products, or any products marketed or labeled as such, or sold, or offered to be sold, where no registration, license, or permit has been issued pursuant to cannabis law.
  • Require that a landlord or owner make an application for the removal of a commercial tenant involving the unlicensed sale of cannabis or products marketed for labeled as such. 
  • If the landlord or owners does not make such application in five days or does not act in good faith to make application an enforcement agency is authorized to bring petition and impose a civil penalty on the responded not exceeding five times the rent charged or a civil penalty of $50,000 if in New York City. 
  • Increased civil penalties for refusal to allow a regulatory inspection of up to $8,000 for the first refusal and up to $15,000 for a second or subsequent refusal within three years of a prior refusal. 
  • Include within Obstructing Governmental Administration law with intent to violate a closing order, order to seal, or temporary order to seal issued by a governmental entity to address a public health or safety concern, a person damages or removes any padlock or other device. 

The new enforcement powers will yield serious, long-term financial consequences for business that blatantly circumvent the law and will break this ongoing cycle of criminality. 

"Today, we are taking steps in establishing a fair and equitable cannabis market in New York State. Businesses engaging in illegal cannabis sales not only undermine the legal cannabis market but also put the health and safety of our communities at risk. This legislation is an important step in holding these unethical businesses accountable and protecting the well-being of our communities. By allowing for the revocation of licenses for businesses involved in illegal cannabis sales, this legislation will strengthen the enforcement of New York's cannabis laws and ensure a level playing field for all businesses,” said Senator Jamaal T. Bailey, “I appreciate my colleagues in the legislature for their support and give thanks to the advocates representing the New York cannabis industry.”

“New York’s cannabis processors, who employ hundreds of workers and have invested tens of millions of dollars into communities across the state, are battling against the illicit market that traffics in untested cannabis products from out-of-state while paying no taxes. Thanks to Assemblymember Zaccaro, Senator Jamaal Bailey, legislative leaders, and Governor Hochul – the State has now been armed with new tools in this battle. A9520/S8847 will serve as a powerful deterrent against selling illicit cannabis while rightfully punishing those stores that choose to subvert the New York-built legal market,” said Mack Hueber, President of the Empire Cannabis Manufacturers Association.

A9520/S8847 provides crucial amendments to the Tax and Alcohol Beverage Control Laws to revoke the alcohol, tobacco, and gaming licenses of any business that chooses to sell illicit cannabis. These illicit stores undermine the restorative, sustainable, and inclusive cannabis program that the MRTA set out to establish and that CANY has vigorously defended.We applaud the Assemblymember Zaccaro, Senator Bailey, and State Leaders in taking the necessary steps to include A9520/S8847 in the State Budget,” said Damien Cornwell, President of the Cannabis Association of New York. 

"Combatting the illicit cannabis market is critical to achieving New York State's goals of an equitable and inclusive cannabis market, and we're proud to have supported Assemblymember Zaccaro and State Senator Bailey as they successfully included in the newly enacted state budget their bipartisan bill that empowers the state to revoke money-making cigarette, alcohol, and lottery licenses from illicit cannabis purveyors. We commend all sponsors and supporters for their unwavering dedication to upholding regulatory compliance and fostering a fair playing field for licensed operators as we work together to build a legal New York cannabis market with a bright future that gives back to New Yorkers," said Ali Amirhooshmand, Head of Government Relations, Dutchie

To date in the Bronx, the task force has conducted more than 280 inspections, levied fines of more than $11 million, seized more than $4 million of illicit products, made 57 arrests, seized 409 pounds of cannabis flower/pre-rolls, 7, 353 packages of THC edibles, and 14 edged and other weapons. 

These new enforcement tools in the final state budget are the change needed to prevent the continued undermining of the adult-use cannabis market in New York. Assemblymember John Zaccaro, Jr., will continue to champion commonsense policies that improve public safety and uplift the quality of life for all.