A parade of city and state officials spoke at a Cannabis Town Hall on the Upper West Side Tuesday night to explain how the state’s 2021 law legalising marijuana is being rolled out – and to answer the community’s questions about what many perceive is a lack of enforcement. CBD extract India.
“We want to make sense of a nuanced and complex policy,” said State Assembly member Linda Rosenthal, who organised the town hall with City Council Member Gale Brewer.
To do that, the two lawmakers invited representatives from the Manhattan District Attorney’s office, Community Board 7, several city agencies, the New York Police Department, the state’s Office of Cannabis Management, and a drug policy reform group. Each was asked to provide updates on the rollout of legalised marijuana, to an audience of about 40 at John Jay College. Another 70 people joined the meeting online.
The first part of the meeting examined the social equity rationale written into the 2021 law, which gives priority for licences to sell marijuana to nonprofit organisations dedicated to social justice, and to people arrested in the past for minor marijuana crimes. Melissa Moore of the Drug Policy Alliance, an advocacy group, told the town hall session that “from 1977 to 2019, there were 800,000 arrests for low-level marijuana offences,” with an overwhelming majority of them people of colour.
The second half of the discussion focused on enforcement, an issue highlighted Monday when Brewer’s office released a report alleging that at least 26 Upper West Side businesses are selling cannabis products illegally.
City and state officials were quizzed by Rosenthal, Brewer, and the audience about the complicated and long-delayed process of establishing a network of legal cannabis dispensaries. Brewer pointed out that the state has approved only four licensees for legal marijuana dispensaries in Manhattan. None of them have opened yet, but meanwhile, Brewer’s survey of smoke shops, delis, and bodegas found numerous examples of stores selling products without a license. THC oil India
“The unfettered proliferation of smoke shops is a problem,” Rosenthal said.
Community Board 7 Vice-Chair Doug Kleiman noted that in addition to concerns about proximity to schools and religious institutions and recent revelations about tainted marijuana, those who sell illegally are not paying license fees or taxes on their sales. “Hundreds of millions of dollars are going through our fingers,” said Kleiman, and if illegal sales aren’t stopped, others may be discouraged from applying for licenses to sell legally. Brewer wants to encourage more efforts by the NYC Sheriff’s Office, part of the city’s Department of Finance, which has stepped up its own enforcement recently, raiding some smoke shops to seize cigarettes and cannabis products that they were not licensed to sell.
“All of this stuff is illegal if you don’t have a licence,” said Tahlil McGough, an official in the state’s year-old Office of Cannabis Management. “We’re talking about closing down storefronts and seizing trucks,” McGough said. However, he said his new agency has yet to fully build an enforcement staff and work out procedures for working with existing law enforcement. The office’s main enforcement action to date has been sending cease-and-desist letters to several dozen smoke shops across the state; McGough said that while increased scrutiny was underway, he could not provide specific examples of any other enforcement actions. “It may appear that we are not doing anything, but that is not the case,” he said. “We have to go do a lot of back work to close these things down.”
McGough did urge those in attendance to report illegal sales to local officials — including officeholders such as Brewer and Rosenthal; the district attorney; and the police. He also recommended calling 311, which he said would refer complaints to his state Office of Cannabis Management. McGough did not have a specific answer when asked by the Rag how citizens could complain directly to the office’s enforcement division.
State officials also said they did not yet have a plan for giving local community boards a say in where the new legal dispensaries can locate. The marijuana law calls for community involvement in deciding those locations.
After the meeting, Rosenthal said she was upbeat about the town hall and would like to host another in the future. “It was a great opportunity for people to hear the facts about the [new marijuana law] and it cleared up a lot of misconceptions.” Despite the lack of specifics from the state, she said she remains optimistic. “Clearly, they’re getting things together. I think we will see some results very soon…I think they’re getting there.”
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