New York’s Legislation to Curb Illicit Cannabis Sales

As foreshadowed by our recent post, on May 3, 2023, New York Governor Kathy Hochul signed cannabis legislation that significantly increases the civil and tax penalties for unlicensed and illicit cannabis sales. The legislation was passed in conjunction with New York budget for the 2024 fiscal year.

So what’s included in the new cannabis legislation?

  • The addition of willful evasion of taxes as part of the cannabis tax, with criminal penalties ranging from a Class A misdemeanor for a first offence to a Class E felony for a second offense within three years.
  • Authorizes the New York Attorney General (AG) and/or the Office of Cannabis Management (OCM) to go after illicit cannabis activities, with the maximum penalty for violations under the MRTA increased to $20,000 per day penalty for engaging in cannabis activity without a license.
  • Authorizes the AG and the OCM to to conduct investigations of business where illicit cannabis activities are suspected, including the authorization for the AG and OCM to obtain search warrants in connection with investigating suspected illicit activity.
  • Illicit cannabis stores could be prosecuted for tax fraud.

Just about everyone has been clamoring for increased enforcement against illicit cannabis dispensaries and, as we have repeatedly opined, without such enforcement it will be difficult, if not impossible, for New York to have a fully functioning adult-use cannabis industry. To that end, Governor Hochul’s press release included quotes from Office of Cannabis Management Executive Director Chris Alexander and New York Acting Commissioner of Taxation and Finance Amanda Hiller.

With more CAURD licenses recently issued and the big Cannabis Control Board meeting coming up later this month, we view this as another sign that New York is getting ready for a fully functioning adult-use cannabis industry. Stay tuned to the Canna Law Blog for more New York cannabis updates!