New York’s SMOKEOUT Act: Empowering Local Governments to Shut Down Illegal Cannabis Operations

The SMOKEOUT Act aims to address the proliferation of unlicensed "smoke shops" selling illegal cannabis by empowering local governments to enforce regulations more effectively and level the playing field for licensed dispensaries.

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To crack down on unlicensed cannabis businesses and expand New York’s regulated marijuana market, a new bill titled the Stop Marijuana Over-proliferation and Keep Empty Operators of Unlicensed Transactions (SMOKEOUT) Act has been introduced. The proposed legislation seeks to grant local government authorities the power to order the immediate closure of any business found to be operating illegally within the marijuana industry and seize their products.

Why is Local Authority Necessary?

The SMOKEOUT Act emerges as a response to the increasing number of so-called “smoke shops,” which sell illegal, unregulated cannabis and other contraband openly with little repercussions. A justification memo accompanying the bill states that this lack of consequences for unlawful retailers arises from municipalities’ limited authority in stopping these operations, compounded by insufficient resources from the Cannabis Control Board. Additionally, these smoke shops create unfair competition for licensed dispensaries, which must contend with rigorous testing and regulations that add to their costs.

Boosting Enforcement Efforts

As hundreds of marijuana business license applications come under review in New York, Governor Hochul emphasizes the importance of promoting growth within the legal cannabis industry while shutting down illicit storefronts that harm communities. Last year alone, 11,600 pounds of illegal cannabis products worth around $56 million were seized during enforcement efforts against unlicensed marijuana activity. Aligning with the governor’s objective, the SMOKEOUT Act intends to provide an additional layer of oversight by extending powers to local governments.

Cannabis Industry Developments in New York

In recent months, the New York Office of Cannabis Management (OCM) and other state agencies have been making strides in paving the way for a thriving legal cannabis market. Some key developments include:

  • New guidelines from the Department of Labor aimed at streamlining hiring processes for roles within the emerging cannabis industry.
  • A letter signed by 66 state lawmakers urging Governor Hochul to prioritize social equity in marijuana licensing decisions.
  • An OCM factsheet addressing concerns about fentanyl-laced marijuana, noting anecdotal claims as unfounded so far.
  • Guidance from the Office of Addiction Services and Supports recommends marijuana screening only when it aligns with a patient’s treatment goals.
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New Yorkers are encouraged to take advantage of deals and promotions offered within the legal cannabis market. In November 2023, regulators urged people to participate in Black Friday sales from licensed dispensaries as one example of supporting the legitimate industry. By empowering local government authorities through the SMOKEOUT Act, lawmakers hope that shutting down unlicensed businesses will give more prominence and success to those operating legally, ultimately benefiting the economy and public health.

A Growing Trend Nationwide

The proposed legislation in New York echoes similar efforts taken up by other states seeking to clamp down on the illicit marijuana trade. As more states move towards legalization and regulation, control over unlicensed operations at the municipal level becomes an increasingly crucial component in ensuring the viability and safety of the burgeoning cannabis industry across the country.

Rita Ferreira

Rita Ferreira

Rita is a seasoned writer with over five years of experience, having worked with globally renowned platforms, including Forbes and Miister CBD. Her deep knowledge of hemp-related businesses and passion for delivering accurate and concise information distinguish her in the industry. Rita's contributions empower individuals and companies to navigate the complexities of the cannabis world, and her work remains a valuable resource for those seeking a deeper understanding of its potential.

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