Assemblywoman Rajkumar takes up challenge of illegal smokeshops in New York

NY State Assemblywoman Jenifer Rajkumar addressing a Community Board Jan. 4, 2024, in her district about the SMOKEOUT Act she is pushing through Albany. PHOTO X @JeniferRajkumar posted Jan. 5.

New York State Assemblywoman Jenifer Rajkumar, who represents District 38, introduced the SMOKEOUT Act (A8428), January 2, 2024, one of her major priorities for passage this Albany session. Rajkumar is the only Indian American woman in the State Legislature.

The SMOKEOUT Act (Stop Marijuana Overproliferation and Keep Empty Operators of Unlicensed Transactions) grants municipalities across the State, including New York City, the power to immediately shutter all illegal, unlicensed smoke shops once and for all, a press release from her office in South Queens said.

The 2021 bill passed in Albany legalizing recreational cannabis established a Cannabis Control Board as the only agency in the entire State authorized to close unlicensed cannabis retailers and order the seizure of merchandise. Currently, New York City can only raid a smoke shop if there is suspicion of certain other violations, such as untaxed cigarettes. Even then, the City cannot close the shops.

If Rajkumar’s SMOKEOUT Act is passed, New York City and all municipalities across the State will have the authority to close illegal smoke shops and seize all merchandise.

The press release pointed to NYC Mayor Eric Adams’ commitment to shut down such illegal establishments within 30 days if Albany granted that power.

At a townhall in December, Rajkumar announced her bill saying “These unlicensed illegal smoke shops are endangering the children of our community and they are hotbeds of crime.”

Mayor Adams pointed out at the town hall, “The Cannabis Law that was passed was supposed to allow only those legal shops to open. The problem with the law, it did not give local municipalities the power and authority to go in and enforce the illegal shops.”

According to the press release, New York City is now home to an estimated 1,500 shops illegally selling cannabis without a license, and an estimated 36,000 statewide.

The unlicensed smoke shops, which sometimes also sell other contraband, have become a magnet for crime in New York City, Rajkumar’s press release said, adding that robberies have skyrocketed from 137 in 2021 to 593 in 2022, and there have been five fatal shootings in 2023 alone, including one in her  district.



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