Statement on Crackdown of Illicit Cannabis Dispensaries

By Rev. Kirsten John Foy | May 5, 2023

The following statement was released by the Rev. Kirsten John Foy on behalf of the Coalition for Access to Regulated & Safe Cannabis (CARSC), a registered trade association that represents licensed registered medical cannabis operators and applicants excluded from New York’s nascent adult-use market:

“The reported additional enforcement powers to crack down on the illicit cannabis dispensaries included in the conceptual state budget deal are welcome changes.

But the truth is they will do little to meet New York’s goal of establishing a safe, legal, and equitable cannabis market.

The Office of Cannabis Management and the Cannabis Control Board have been unwilling to exercise the existing powers provided to them by the Legislature. Rather than shut down the unlicensed operators that are overwhelming the market, the regulators have allowed them to proliferate.

This illicit marketplace provides unfair competition to the handful of legal dispensaries – compared to an estimated 1,500 illegal operators in New York City alone – and makes the laudable goals the Legislature established in the Marijuana Regulation and Taxation Act much harder to realize.

As a result, New York collected a paltry $1.1 million in cannabis tax revenue between January and March of this year, shortchanging communities disproportionately impacted by the War on Drugs who are, by law, to benefit from adult-use legalization.

Right across the Hudson, New Jersey collected $4.6 million in tax revenue in just the first 10 weeks after its adult-use cannabis sales launched in 2022, generating more than $219,000 in social equity excise fees.

Meanwhile, the unregulated, untested, and potentially contaminated cannabis products sold by unlicensed operators is putting consumers – including our children – unnecessarily at risk.

The answer is for the OCM and CCB to implement the MRTA as written and issue adult-use licenses to all priority classes – including women, disabled veterans, and members of communities impacted by cannabis prohibition. They should also expand the medical cannabis program to benefit underserved Black and Brown communities, as the law requires.

Then, and only then, will New York’s cannabis marketplace realize the true promise of equity and social justice.”

The Rev. Kirsten John Foy is President and CEO of The Arc of Justice, a national social, economic, and environmental justice advocacy organization.