New York City Passes Unlicensed Dispensary Landlord Legislation

The New York City Council (the City Council) is taking matters into its own hands, passing legislation that will hold landlord’s liable for renting space to unlicensed cannabis dispensaries. Last week, on June 22, the City Council unanimously passed the legislation (47 to 0), with one abstention.

Here is City Council Member Lynn C. Schulman’s summary:

“This bill would prohibit knowingly leasing commercial premises to a tenant who uses the premises for the distribution or sale of illicit cannabis or tobacco products without a license. The first time that an illicit cannabis or unlicensed tobacco product seller is found to be operating in leased commercial premises any relevant city agency could issue a warning to the owner of the premises. If an unlicensed seller is later found to be operating in the same commercial premises, the owner would be liable for civil penalties. This bill would also require the city to submit to the Mayor and the Council a quarterly report on enforcement relating to illicit cannabis or unlicensed tobacco product sellers.”

New York City landlords can be fined $5,000 for the first offense and $10,000 for subsequent violations. These are serious financial penalties that are designed to and should disincentive New York City landlords from leasing to unlicensed dispensaries.

The City Council’s efforts to crack down on illicit dispensaries follows New York State legislation that was passed in May of 2023, which authorized the Office of Cannabis Management (OCM) to itself police illicit cannabis activities (check out our breakdown here). The OCM quickly utilized its new authority, when on June 8, 2023, the OCM issued violation notices and cease and desist orders to seven illicit dispensaries in Manhattan.

This sort of enforcement is exactly what is needed to propel New York’s — and New York City’s — legal adult-use cannabis industry forward. Without it, licensed cannabis companies on both the production and consumer sides of the industry will simply be unable to compete. Stay tuned as we get closer to New York’s anticipated opening of the adult-use application portal in the fall!

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