Assembly Members Benedetto, Rajkumar, and Zaccaro Push for Tough Budget Language to Crackdown on Illegal Smoke Shops

Bronx, New York – Assembly Members Michael R. Benedetto (D-Bronx), Jenifer Rajkumar (D-Queens), joined Saturday in Pelham Bay to urge Governor Hochul and legislative leaders to adopt strong standards allowing localities to crack down on the estimated 1,500 smoke shops in New York City. The East Bronx has seen a proliferation of these types of shops, which cause not only an increase in potential thefts and robberies on site, but also the sale of unsafe, harmful products to the public, and a strain on limited police resources in our area. 

Chief among the legislators demands were the incorporation of Assembly Member Rajkumar’s SMOKEOUT Act (Stop Marijuana Overproliferation and Keep Empty Operators of Unlicensed Transactions) which grants municipalities across the State, including New York City, the power to immediately shutter all illegal, unlicensed smoke shops once while seize these illegal products, into the upcoming State Budget. According to Mayor Adams, Currently, the New York Police Department and Sheriff’s Office authorities can inspect a shop suspected of selling cannabis illegally only if it has a tobacco license. 

Additionally, to further reform the legal marketplace, Assembly Members Benedetto and John Zaccaro, Jr. have introduced their own legislation to penalize illegal operators and ensure only legal licensees are selling their products. Assembly Member Benedetto’s bill, A09179, would impose a moratorium on legal licenses until the State Cannabis Board could certify the illegal shops are shuttered. Assembly Member Zaccaro’s has two bills, the first A07722, cannabis control board to provide notice to state legislative representatives upon receipt of application for an adult-use cannabis retail dispensary or on-site consumption license in their district. Zaccaro’s second bill, A09520, would allow the revocation of a tobacco, liquor or gaming license of a business found to have sold or possessed illicit cannabis. The first bill, A07722, is being sponsored in the State Senate by Senator Nathalia Fernandez (D-Bronx). The second, A095290 is co-sponsored by Senator Jamaal T. Bailey (D-Bronx). 

“By any objective measure, the roll out of the legalized marijuana market has been an absolutely failure in New York State,” said Assembly Member Benedetto (D-Bronx). “That’s why I’m pleased to be joining forces with my colleagues in government to demand immediate action in the upcoming budget. Assembly Member Rajkumar’s SMOKEOUT Act would go a long way to giving localities the ability to shutter these stores and clean up this mess that has plagued our communities, contributing to the deterioration of our quality of life. The other bills we have introduce give us new ways forward to reform the legal market so it is finally safe for all New Yorkers.”

“I am proud to have Assemblyman Benedetto and the entire Boogie Down by my side to get the SMOKEOUT Act past the finish line. My legislation gives New York City and municipalities across the State the authority to close illegal smoke shops, so that local law enforcement is finally empowered to stop the sale of unlicensed cannabis that is endangering our children and our neighborhoods. Leaders of the Bronx came together at our rally, and now it is time for us to come together in Albany so we can eliminate these epicenters of crime,” said Assembly Member Rajkumar (D-Queens). 

““Illegal smoke shops pose a clear and present danger to our communities. My office hears from concerned residents each and every day about the rising number of smoke shops selling unregulated and illicit cannabis. Legal cannabis is subjected to thorough testing to ensure that it is safe for consumption. Conversely, there is no way to know whether illegal cannabis is laced with other – potentially even fatal--drugs. I am sponsoring A9520 to send a clear message to business owners that when you put people’s lives at risk, you will be hit where it hurts and your license to sell tobacco, liquor, and lottery will be revoked,” said Assembly Member Zaccaro. (D-Bronx).

“By extending municipalities the powers to enforce cannabis licensing requirements — including closing unlicensed dispensaries — we will ensure that cannabis consumers are purchasing from state-licensed establishments that adhere to the highest standards of quality and safety,” said Senator Nathalia Fernandez. “These measures will protect our communities from the dangers associated with unregulated sales and promote a compliant and responsible cannabis industry throughout New York State,” said State Senator Fernandez (D-Bronx/Westchester). 

Those looking to learn more on these important bills should visit the Assembly’s website at and review each piece of legislation. All New Yorkers are encouraged to contact their local legislators, in both the Assembly and the Senate, and ask them to sign on to these bills to bring them to the floor as soon as possible. 

Saturday’s Press Conference can be reviewed in its entirety here.