WEST HEMPSTEAD, Long Island (WABC) -- A cannabis crackdown on Long Island is targeting store owners accused of illegally selling THC gummies to children, and the question is: how are these businesses still open?
Eyewitness News cameras were rolling Thursday afternoon as a smoke shop clerk was busted in West Hempstead. Narcotics officers had just made an undercover buy after reports of the shop selling THC and cannabis gummies to minors.
When asked if he was selling to children, the owner had no comment, but he's now facing a felony count.
Even though cannabis is now legal to smoke in New York State, you still can't sell it without a proper license. Right now, no one can in Nassau County.
"We believe they know the law, but his answer is, 'oh I didn't know I was in Nassau County, I didn't know,'" Nassau County Police Department Commissioner Patrick Ryder said.
"We do not have municipalities who have approved the sale of marijuana," Nassau County Executive Bruce Blakeman. "We believe it's wrong."
RELATED | Manhattan's 3rd legal marijuana dispensary opens amid NYC crackdown
Still, the sales continue. So, why do they stay in business?
Police say it's the markup. They can spend $5 on THC gummies and then sell them to teenagers for $30 dollars. And the price for some THC vape pens are $70.
While New York City takes the approach that it's now safest to regulate through licensing, Long Island seems to be moving in a different direction -- regulating though law enforcement.
This comes as troubling numbers have emerged on a national level, regarding children under six who have consumed cannabis edibles, which often resemble candy.
According to U.S. Poison Control, the number has risen from 207 to more than 3,000. That's a 14-fold increase in just four years.
"We have had overdoses as low as 14, 15 and 16 year olds, that intentionally ate a gummy, and when you chew that gummy with the THC in it, it doesn't go in right away, so you think it didn't do nothing, you pop a couple more, and then it catches up very fast," Ryder said.
They say they've seen at least a dozen cases like that this past year.
Meanwhile, a smoke shop on Hempstead Turnpike was smacked with seven violations from the town of Hempstead and was padlocked on Thursday.
But police say as long as there's potential for profit, the problem is here to stay.
* Download the abc7NY app for breaking news alerts
Submit a tip or story idea to Eyewitness News