Lawmakers target landlords in fight against illegal cannabis stores in lower Manhattan
A surge of illegal cannabis stores has presented a growing problem for law enforcement and residents in lower Manhattan. To address this pressing issue, Assembly Member Grace Lee and Sen. Brian Kavanagh are directing their efforts not only toward the shop owners but also building landlords. The message is landlords share responsibility and could face legal and financial consequences.
“In a few blocks' radius, we have dozens and dozens of cannabis stores,” said Lee looking around the neighborhood near Ludlow and Stanton streets.
Lee and Kavanagh have been sending letters to landlords outlining the role they play in helping to address this problem.
“We want to let them know what their rights are as landlords, to stop a tenant from selling illegal cannabis for them to be able to evict a tenant, that they are responsible,” said Lee.
According to Lee, over 40 illegal cannabis shops operate in lower Manhattan - a number that surpasses the count of legal licensed dispensaries in both the city and state. Currently, the Office of Cannabis Management reports there are only 11 legal shops in the city and 26 in the state. To address this stark contrast, Lee and Kavanagh say they are committed to partnering with landlords and providing them with resources.
“We are also working now very closely with the Manhattan DA’s Office, who have been incredibly proactive on this issue,” said Lee.
Lee shared that her office has already mailed 35 letters to landlords. She acknowledged that some landlords might be unaware of their tenants' illegal cannabis activities. However, she emphasized that once landlords become informed and fail to take action, they could face substantial legal and financial penalties.
“They can face fines as much as $10,000 to $25,000,” said Lee.
Susan Stetzer, the district manager of Community Board 3, voiced the concerns she hears from neighborhood residents. These concerns encompass the risks associated with unregulated cannabis sales and the discomfort residents experience due to the presence of these shops.
“Community residents are complaining every day about new stores that are open or stores that they’ve complained about in the past that are still open,”said Stetzer.
Stetzer supports the idea of holding landlords accountable, especially given the sluggish state-level enforcement of the matter. In lower Manhattan, one of the few legal dispensaries is Conbud, located on Delancey Street. Lee believes that cracking down on landlords is a crucial step to create an environment where legal cannabis businesses can thrive.
"By taking these actions against stores that are selling cannabis illegally, we hope that we can create a legal market that truly benefits all New Yorkers," said Lee.