New York’s Office of Cannabis Management (OCM) has posted the cease-and-desist letters sent to 66 businesses it accused last February of gifting cannabis unlawfully. The agency had refused to publish the letters – even denying a FOIL request from Gothamist – but backed down after public pressure from the news organization.
The letters were sent to businesses throughout the state, including those in Syracuse, Bath, Elmira, Elmira Heights, Barton, Lackawanna, Lyons, Horseheads, Watkins Glen, Penn Yan, Webster, Waverly, Lockport, Buffalo, Depew, Amherst, Rochester, Brooklyn, Queens, and the Bronx. The agency also sent a letter to a company based in Wayne, New Jersey.
The letters are all uniform, warning the addressee that failure to comply could put their “ability to obtain a license in the legal cannabis market at substantial risk,” although it’s unknown whether any of the businesses or individuals intend on applying for a license.
The letters claim that “unlicensed sales undermine the legal market that is being built by introducing products that are not lab-tested and potentially threaten public health and safety.”
The letter also warns that landlords “hosting illegal activity” on their premises are “jeopardizing” their “ability to house a licensed retail dispensary or on-site consumption lounge in the future.”
Steve Zissou, an attorney representing Empire Cannabis Clubs, which was targeted with two letters, told Gothamist that he believes the membership model – selling a daily or monthly membership rather than cannabis – is legal under state law. He described the club’s model as a “non-charitable, not-for-profit cannabis dispensary that does not receive compensation for the transfer of cannabis.”
“There’s an old saying: If you want peace, prepare for war,” Zissou told Gothamist. “And so Empire wants peace, but they’re prepared for war if and when it comes.”
OCM Executive Director Chris Alexander told Gothamist that in addition to breaking New York’s cannabis law, the businesses are “breaking state tax and several municipal laws.”
“I look forward to working with other regulatory bodies across the state to hold these stores accountable for their flagrant violations of the law,” he said.
Get daily cannabis business news updates. Subscribe