New crackdown on illegal smoke shops in NYC packs big fines for landlords

ByTom Negovan, Eyewitness News WABC logo
Monday, August 14, 2023
New crackdown on illegal smoke shops in NYC packs big fines
A new crackdown on illegal smoke shops in New York City is fining landlords who knowingly lease property to unlicensed marijuana or tobacco sellers. Tom Negovan has the story.

NEW YORK CITY (WABC) -- There's a new crackdown on illegal smoke shops in New York City.

Under a new law that goes into effect Monday, landlords cannot knowingly lease to unlicensed marijuana or tobacco sellers.

The landlords will first get a written warning, following an investigation, then the big fines begin.

Landlords will be fined $5,000 for a first time offense and $10,000 every time thereafter.

There are approximately 8,000 illegal, unlicensed smoke shops in New York City.

"The enforcement efforts up to now have targeted the businesses and the businesses, some of them are fly by night. This is targeting landlords who actually have a stake in the community or stake in their property and they're not going to want to upset that," said Lynn Schulman, (D) New York City Councilmember.

The illegal smoke shops are popping up across all five boroughs. Most are selling tobacco products but about 2,000 are selling illegal cannabis.

And officials say the shops don't care who they sell it to.

"The illegal shops that are undermining the entire market are selling to people that are underage," said Councilmember Carlina Rivera.

Inspectors will be visiting the shops and telling landlords about any violations they find. And if nothing is done, then the landlords will be the ones to start getting the fines.

"Right now, we've identified 44 shops which are ready to be nuisance-abated-which is a civil action in closing these places," said Commanding Officer Assistant Chief Jim McCarthy.

Illicit sales are expected to total $5.4 billion while licensed sales are only projected at $2 billion.

The officials say the unregulated products also pose a health risk to consumers.

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