Aspiring-cannabis store owner waits on license approval as illegal pot shops run rampant in NYC

CeFaan Kim Image
Saturday, February 24, 2024
Brooklyn woman waits for cannabis license with no end in sight
CeFaan Kim has the story.

COBBLE HILL, Brooklyn (WABC) -- Frustration is building for a woman in Brooklyn who has followed all the rules to get a license to legally sell cannabis, but has been met with roadblocks at every turn as her rent bills stack up.

Illegal pot shops have become as New York as the traffic. Sometimes it feels like you can find one on almost any block in the city, in any neighborhood.

Then there's Iris Ladao, who's been trying to do it legally.

"I saw an opportunity which I was very excited about," cannabis license applicant Ladao said.

She qualified as a social-equity applicant and checked off all the boxes.

She's a first-generation Filipina, from the neighborhood, and received unanimous support from the community board and the Retail Workers Union. Then she secured a long-term lease for a corner retail space at the intersection of Atlantic Avenue and Court Street in Brooklyn.

It most certainly wasn't cheap. The problem is, she signed that lease three months ago, but still no license or business.

"We have been waiting in a queue and we don't have any timing," Ladao said. "There's been a lot of different messages coming from the Office of Cannabis Management. I feel like they've moved the goal posts quite a few times and it's been frustrating for qualified social-equity applicants like myself."

Meanwhile, within five blocks of her location, there are a dozen illegal smoke shops.

On the steps of City Hall on Friday, a rally was held pushing State Assemblymember Jenifer Rajkumar's bill that would give the NYPD the power to shutter those illegal pot shops. Right now, only state officials can do it.

"These shops are popping up all over the city near schools, endangering our children. Selling candy laced with cannabis," Rajkumar said.

In a statement, a spokesperson for the State Office of Cannabis Management said, "Currently, the State is prioritizing shutting down illegal shops. We are committed to enforcing the laws on the books and working with partners across government to shut down unlicensed cannabis storefronts across New York City."

As for applicants waiting for a license, the spokesperson notes that it's a randomized process. A lottery system. In other words, Ladao will just have to wait.

"This isn't sustainable. I can't do this for that much longer," Ladao said.


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