Amidst all the waiting, back and forth, and feet dragging regarding the legalities for selling weed to adults of legal age in New York, and with the market expected to go live sometime towards the end of the year or the beginning of 2023, a few enterprising people and businesses have taken it upon themselves to start selling regardless of the law and the warnings they are getting from the state. The more things change, the more they stay the same. However, they may be looking at a slightly more lenient punishment if they get caught.
The New York Cannabis Underground
Given NYC’s long-standing, rich underground cannabis presence, how is this coming as a shock to officials?
New York City already has one of the most influential underground cannabis markets worldwide. There is no shortage of potent herb or brand recognition, and convenient home delivery has been the norm since before Uber Eats existed.
If you add that, along with weed being legal, it will have to be taxed, this means that the underground supplier can offer the same product as a brand new dispensary for a much better price.
Cease-and-desist letters have been sent to underground businesses, demanding that they cease their illegal activities or risk being denied a license to sell legally. The unauthorized sellers were also advised of the potential of hefty fines and criminal prosecution. So what’s new?
Finding The Loophole
Humans are resourceful creatures. If there’s a way to “technically” not break the law, odds are someone will find it fairly quickly. Here is a great example:
When walking into one of these stores operating on the edge of prosecution, a customer is officially there to buy digital content. And as luck would have it, their purchase comes with a complimentary cannabis gift of his choosing, thanks to the store’s “gifting” model.
The Diversity Effect
What will happen to the uncontrolled delivery services, corner stores, and local neighborhood dealers who have been providing the market for years now that recreational marijuana is legal in New York?
Thousands of people, mostly African Americans, Latino immigrants, and people from other marginalized groups, could lose their long-held jobs if they weren’t accepted into the new structure.
At the same time, it’s difficult to crack down completely on illegal sellers because many of them are the same individuals the state wants to turn into licensed businesses in order to develop a broad and varied adult-use New York cannabis market.
And in yet another catch-22 situation, underground operators will be unable to meet standard license requirements, such as providing proper tax returns, because their businesses are illegal. New York will have to deal with the fact that their income cannot usually be traced back.
These operators will be very hesitant to reveal themselves and join the state’s newly legal cannabis system unless they are convinced that they will not be penalized.
A Final Thought
State cannabis regulators, however, aren’t buying it, irrespective of which plan unlicensed dispensaries choose. But that isn’t stopping the spread of these stores, and it’s unknown if there’ll be any repercussions for operating an unlicensed enterprise as New York’s legal market takes shape. In short, the New York underground is here to stay for a good long time to come still.
However, whether purchased from a corner store, a dispensary, or a dealer, any non-medical marijuana product sold in New York at the moment is unregulated. That doesn’t seem to be slowing anyone down, though.
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