The party's over, guys. New York City cops seized nearly two dozen black market weed trucks in Times Square this week in an effort to crack down on illicit vendors before legal sales begin.
A wide variety of brightly-colored weed trucks began popping up all over NYC shortly after New York legalized adult-use cannabis last spring. The state's new cannabis law allows adults to legally possess and use weed, even in public, but legal retail sales are not expected to begin until the end of this year. In the meantime, aspiring entrepreneurs have started meeting public demand by selling black market bud at unlicensed storefronts, weed trucks, and even restaurants.
Mayor Eric Adams initially promised he would not take a “heavy-handed” approach to illegal vendors, but it seems like he may have had a recent change of heart. This Tuesday, the New York Police Department (NYPD) towed 19 weed trucks out of Times Square and seized all of the contraband bud inside.
At a recent press conference, Adams said that he didn't consider his decision to start busting weed trucks to be a contradiction of his earlier promise. “Heavy handed is arrests,” he explained. “We didn't walk in with SWAT teams. We came in with tow trucks.”
In keeping with the mayor's promise, cops did not arrest any of the drivers for selling weed. The trucks were all technically seized for selling food – namely cannabis edibles – without proper permits from the Health Department. The drivers received summonses, which will require them to attend hearings and probably pay fines before their trucks will be returned to them.
“You can't have an illegal market while you have a legal market and people coming from out of town thinking that New York is open season on any and everything goes. No. They better read the memo,” Adams continued. “Those illegal trucks should not be on our streets selling marijuana and hurting our business district. They're not paying taxes. They're using up our services without paying taxes and it's hurting legal businesses.”
Indeed, almost every one of the weed trucks that got busted had out-of-state license plates. And since most of the drivers aren't local New Yorkers, many have been sleeping in their trucks overnight. Some of these trucks also managed to collect hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of parking tickets while camped out on city streets. Weed World, which had dozens of trucks in the Times Square area, said that it actually paid off $200,000 of the $500,000 in parking fines it owed, just one day before the cops seized their trucks.
Weed World's owner, Bilal Muhammad, told NY Daily News that his business is being unfairly targeted because they only sell non-psychoactive cannabinoids and not high-THC bud. “We’re being grouped with these up and newcomers that are actually selling real weed, and we don’t sell real weed,” he explained. “We never have.” Weed World has also opened a brick-and-mortar store on 7th Ave, which Muhammad plans to turn into a legal dispensary as soon as he can get an official license.
State regulators have finally begun issuing adult-use licenses this month, and sales are expected to kick off by the end of 2022. Mayor Adams said that he intends to continue cracking down on unlicensed weed dealers while legal sales roll out.
“We have a due process here,” said Adams at the press conference. “We have to now identify where people are reporting illegal weeds being sold, which is far more stores than we realize. And then there are steps to going in and confiscating those items. You have to go in with a warning... We have to educate folks and understand, next to the canned soda can't be cannabis. But we are zeroing in on it, but they're layers. You can't just go in on the first brush and just take action. You have to do it in layers. And that's what we are doing.”