Governor Hochul calls on social media giants to stop promoting illegal marijuana shops

ByEyewitness News WABC logo
Thursday, February 29, 2024
Hochul calls on Meta, Google to stop promoting illegal pot shops
Kemberly Richardson has the latest.

NEW YORK CITY (WABC) -- Governor Kathy Hochul renewed calls for stronger measures on New York State's cannabis law during a press conference on Wednesday.

Hochul called out major social media platforms, accusing them of promoting illegal marijuana shops in New York. She urged the state legislature to give localities ways to padlock the doors of the industry and shut down violators.

It's a problem the state and city have struggled to combat.

The governor called on tech giants such as Meta and Google to stop the promotion of illegal cannabis shops on their platforms.

There have been several calls for action from the cannabis industry, as they say this hurts legal operators and takes dollars away from the state.

Licensed cannabis operators joined Hochul during the press conference to rally support for more protections, including Alfredo Angueira, co-founder of Con Bud on 85 Delancey Street.

"The presence of illicit operators siphons away dollars dedicated to communities that legal dispensaries are located in," Angueira said.

At Wednesday's press conference, Angueira said there are about 71 illicit storefront shops within 1,200 feet of his Lower East Side dispensary.

Governor Hochul also demanded platforms like Google Maps and Yelp stop directing users to unlicensed vendors, complete with reviews that may appear to normalize illegal activities.

It could be hard for any user to tell the difference between licensed businesses and illegal stores with numbers, links and addresses that only would lure customers in.

Meta which operates Instagram and Facebook said in a previous statement in part that they, "prohibit content in both ads and organic pages that promotes the buying and selling of drugs including marijuana."

While there are 77 licensed cannabis retailers in the state, the city estimates at least 1,500 retailers are operating illegally.

Although some have expressed concerns over the impact of these laws on people of color, Hochul said more than two-thirds of licensed dispensaries in New York are minority- and women-owned businesses.

One of the most concerning aspects about the presence of illegal cannabis vendors in the end is the proliferation and sale of untested products.

"This is not merely a matter of legality," said Osbert Orduna, CEO of The Cannabis Place in Middle Village. "It is a matter of public health, safety and the wellbeing of our society as a whole."

Another obstacle is that when authorities shut down unlicensed shops, some reopen the very next day.

Fines take time to collect, and during that process the business can remain open.

"They can appeal their fines, appeal their closures, everyone gets due process," said Gov. Hochul. "But while that plays out in the courts, they'd be shuttered."

After a lull in openings due to litigation, things are once again picking up.

Since December, 50 new state-approved shops have opened up, and by the end of this week there will be 30 more.

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Lucy Yang has the details.


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