Pot shots: NY lawmakers tackle illicit weed shops

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ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) — New York Gov. Kathy Hochul and legislative leaders were looking at ways to crack down on illicit pot shops threatening the state’s fledgling legal market for recreational marijuana as part of negotiations on the overdue budget.

Hochul, a Democrat, told reporters at the state Capitol on Tuesday that she expected the budget negotiations to wrap up soon. It was due April 1.

“Its been a long process,” she said. “I do see a path to ramp up the state budget, perhaps as early as the end of this week.”

Hundreds of unauthorized pot shops have opened in New York City — competing with legal dispensaries whose products are heavily taxed. The illicit stores and trucks have been multiplying even as New York slowly works to get its legal market established.

Hochul said she wants to give state tax officials and the Office of Cannabis Management enforcement tools to shut down or fine illegal pot shops, a proposal outlined in a bill she unveiled last month.

“We are trying so hard to stand up to the illegal industry. This is not easy to do. But when you set up these businesses to fail already because of illegal competition, we have to take some dramatic steps now,” Hochul said.

Legislators missed the deadline for adopting a state budget in part because of disagreements over the governor’s proposals to change bail rules and her ambitious plan to spur the creation of 800,000 new homes statewide over the next ten years. It’s common in New York for policy issues to be included in state budgets.

Hochul’s housing plan was ejected from the budget amid opposition from suburban lawmakers concerned about local zoning mandates. Hochul said she will push some of her plan’s elements this legislative session after the budget is passed.

Hochul’s proposed budget includes a change to the current bail law to give judges greater discretion by removing the “least restrictive means” standard to ensure a defendant returns to court. Hochul describes it as a clarification of guidelines, but liberal lawmakers have resisted further changes to the state’s bail law.

Hochul declined to comment on whether an agreement had been reached on bail, but said she is “satisfied with where we are today.”


Michael Hill in Albany, New York contributed to this report.

Maysoon Khan is a corps member for the Associated Press/Report for America Statehouse News Initiative. Report for America is a nonprofit national service program that places journalists in local newsrooms to report on undercovered issues. Follow Maysoon Khan on Twitter.


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