A look at New York City's illicit cannabis dispensaries...
Updated: Feb 8
Investigative Report by NYMCIA,CMCC,NJCTA, reveals public health and economic consequences of New York’s Unregulated Pop-Up Cannabis Market Trend. 11/2022
E. Coli, Lead, Salmonella & Other Contaminants Found In ‘Pop-Up’ & Illegal Dispensary Products; Mislabeling & Youth-Targeted Branding Abound, Putting Consumers At Risk, Threatening Success Of NY’s Equity-Based Adult-Use Program New York, November 30, 2022 – New York has laid the groundwork for the nation’s most equitable adult-use cannabis industry. However, while the nascent industry holds great promise, a new report finds that illicit, pop-up cannabis dispensaries selling tainted and mislabeled products, using branding that targets youth and endangers consumers, threaten to undermine the adult-use market before it gets underway. “E. Coli, Heavy Metals, Copyright Infringement, and 100 Percent Failure Rate – A Look at New York City’s Illicit Cannabis Market,” released by the New York Medical Cannabis Industry Association (NYMCIA), in partnership with the New Jersey Cannabis Trade Association (NJCTA) and the Connecticut Medical Cannabis Council (CMCC), details the results of comprehensive third-party lab testing of cannabis products purchased from more than 20 unlicensed dispensaries across the five boroughs. A link to the full report can be found here. Key Findings Include: ● The presence of E. coli, salmonella, and pesticides in various products ● Approximately 40% of the products failed at least one of the standard tests administered to legal cannabis products only available at legal medical cannabis dispensaries ● THC levels as much as 2x the advertised amount for some products ● More than 50% of locations where the product was purchased did not ask for ID The report illuminates the danger posed by po-up illicit operators that have circumvented New York’s regulations – not only presenting serious health and safety threats to consumers, but also potentially sabotaging the success of the state’s soon-to-launch legal adult-use market. “The report’s findings are deeply troubling and highlight the tremendous risks posed by unscrupulous firms operating above the law,” said NYMCIA President Ngiste Abebe. “New York has a responsibility to not only protect the health and safety of its residents but also to fulfill the promise of a socially equitable adult-use market. Neither goal can be realized without stricter enforcement against bad actors.” “I want everyone to understand that these smoke shops and delis are not legacy operators – they’re opportunists that are retraumatizing our community and stopping our ability to build wealth. They are poisoning our Black and Brown communities. You cannot build wealth without health and these smoke shop owners are destroying the reputation of New York's cannabis with their chemicals. They need to be stopped,” said Juancarlos Huntt, CAURD license applicant and legacy operator and co-founder New York for Social and Economic Equity. ”Faced with an eroding medical cannabis program, New York patients have been pushed into this newly rampant illicit market, exposing them to E. coli, salmonella, and other dangerous toxins from untested products,” said Don Williams, Vice President of Government Relations at Curaleaf. “They deserve better, and New York must prioritize creating a safe and thriving cannabis program for them and adult-use consumers.” "The findings in NYMCIA’s report are important to understand as both a consumer and a legislator. In order to have a flourishing adult-use cannabis market we have to emphasize the shortcomings of the illicit market. Improving our wellness is about purchasing from the legal market- which is made clear by the frightening E.coli results highlighted in the report,” said Council Member Amanda Farías (D-18). “I want New Yorkers to use cannabis safely, and in more ways than just recreational. Cannabis has incredible medicinal properties that can be helpful to those with anxiety, chronic pain, and more, but these medical uses are a lot harder to access in the illicit market. As the Chair of the Committee on Economic Development and a Bronx Council Member, I look forward to continuing my work as a strong partner in New York City’s emerging adult-use cannabis industry." “The dangers of New York’s pop-up illicit dispensaries have far-reaching implications, as many New Jersey residents work, socialize, and buy cannabis on the other side of the Hudson,” said Todd Johnson, Executive Director of the New Jersey Cannabis Trade Association. “I hope that New York will heed the findings of this report and focus on establishing a well-regulated, safe, and functional adult-use market while protecting existing medical cannabis patients.” "This report proves that unlicensed and unregulated dispensaries are a public health concern. This is yet another reason why we need to get these retail recreational licenses out the door. This delay has not only resulted in a gray area free-for-all but now people are risking getting sick from sketchy and unregulated THC products,” said Council Member Justin Brannan (D-43). “If you're like me and strongly support the legalization of recreational marijuana, you'll agree these new retail licenses will be functionally worthless and tax revenue will be a far cry from what's anticipated unless we get the new licenses out the door and get serious about the illegal weed shops masquerading as legitimate dispensaries." “As a legislative body, we were intentional in crafting a law that ensures New York's adult-use market is not only economically inclusive of all regions across the state, but sufficiently equitable to address the long-standing harm caused by the failed War on Drugs,” noted State Senator Jeremy Cooney (SD-56). “This critical goal is threatened by the booming illicit market, which also poses a significant health and safety risk to consumers. I am committed to working with my senate colleagues in the coming months to address these problems and ensure that the promise of this emerging market is fully realized." “We have a highly regulated Medical Marijuana Program in Connecticut that provides laboratory-tested cannabis to our patients. Our Adult-Use Cannabis program, which should start in January, also provides for rigorous testing and accurate labeling of all the products. Our hope is that this will divert people from purchasing untested and potentially life-threatening products on the black market,” said Linda Kowalski, Executive Director of the Connecticut Medical Cannabis Council (CMCC). “A legal and equitable cannabis market that addresses the harm of the war on drugs is important to me and communities like mine on the East Side. Organizers worked for years to establish a legal market and New York intentionally split up the supply chain, negating opportunities for vertical integration to ensure a competitive and inclusive market that meets our goals for social and racial justice equity goals,” said Council Member Carlina Rivera (D-02). “Unregulated and unlicensed operators undermine the legal market, and lack of enforcement against these operators entrenches bad behavior that could dissuade legacy operators from pursing a legal vending route. I commend the New York Medical Cannabis Industry Association and its regional partners for their important market research endeavor that shows illicit operators are selling potentially harmful products, and do not adhere to basic norms like checking an ID for a person looking to purchase a controlled substance.” “This report underscores concerns I have been raising about the risks posed by multiple storefronts or mobile stores that are falsely and deceptively purporting to sell cannabis as if they are licensed to do so, which is absolutely not the case. This is occurring both in my district and across the five boroughs and is not only hazardous to consumers’ health but undermines the state’s equity-based legal cannabis rollout and robs both the city and state of much-needed tax revenue,” said State Senator Brad Hoylman (SD-27). “I am committed to working with all parties to address this problem and find a solution that ensures a safe, viable, and well-regulated adult-use market going forward.” “As the cannabis industry expands, New York City must address these issues in the unregulated cannabis market head-on. For true equity in the cannabis industry, we must hold bad actors accountable,” said Council Member Marjorie Velázquez (D-13). “The findings in this report bring to light necessary regulation and enforcement, especially regarding pop-up dispensaries. This issue of unregulated cannabis sales is a health hazard and danger to our communities especially as we have gone through the many devastating impacts of K2 — synthetic cannabis.” “Legalizing cannabis for adult-use has the potential to create an important new revenue stream for the city at a time when costs are rising across the board, necessitating spending cuts that threaten important programs and services for underserved communities. The neighborhoods that would suffer the most from this illicit market are the same communities that were impacted by the criminalization of cannabis,” said Council Member Kevin Riley (D-12). “A well-regulated cannabis market also can provide much-needed opportunities for individuals to legally support themselves and their families. But none of this will be possible if the illicit market is allowed to continue to operate unregulated. ### About The New York Medical Cannabis Industry Association (NYMCIA) The New York Medical Cannabis Industry Association is comprised of Columbia Care, Cresco, Curaleaf, Green Thumb Industries, The Botanist and Acreage NY, iAnthus, Pharmacann, and Vireo Health. Our mission is to protect and serve the patients in New York’s medical marijuana program while leading the way for the proposed adult-use industry across the state. Learn more about NYMCIA at https://www.protectnymedmar.com/ About The New Jersey Cannabis Trade Association (NJCTA) The New Jersey Cannabis Trade Association (NJCTA) is comprised of the state’s permitted medical and adult-use cannabis operators. The mission of the NJCTA is to ensure the legal cannabis marketplace is not only safe, accessible, and affordable but also equitable and just. To achieve this, the NJCTA strives to shape public awareness and encourage the implementation of thoughtful and responsible cannabis policy in New Jersey and serves as a singular voice before the executive branch, legislature, Cannabis Regulatory Commission, and the media on the complex matters that impact our industry. Learn more about NJCTA at https://www.njcannabistrade.org/. New Jersey Cannabis Trade Association About the Connecticut Medical Cannabis Council The CMCC is made up of four Connecticut manufacturers licensed to produce pharmaceutical grade medical marijuana in the state. Learn more: https://www.facebook.com/CMCCinc/.