Friends – I was in New York City last week. Distracting me from my perambulations (and fond memories of the delicious kasha knish that I enjoyed at Second Avenue Deli) were a surprising number of stores and trucks selling cannabis. Not just hemp-based CBD products, but, well, non-hemp cannabis products (long-time readers may recall our prior discussion about the problem of cannabis nomenclature not offering efficient vocabulary to distinguish hemp cannabis from non-hemp cannabis – that problem remains unfixed). Right there, without any apparent concern or attempt to hide the fact that they are selling THC-based cannabis products (yeah, that isn’t really satisfying either) in the open. Even the fake purse sellers in Manhattan are set to roll up shop as soon as law enforcement arrives.
As you may know, New York approved adult-use cannabis back in September 2021, and the regulations are still coming into place, but retail adult use sales are still not legal in the State. So how then are enterprising operators parking refurbished food trucks on Midtown street corners peddling prerolls? Well, I think it has to do with a combination of the fact that New York decriminalized personal possession of cannabis back in Spring 2021, and a simple lack of enforcement of current laws prohibiting retail sales. I’m not the only one to notice this phenomenon, by the way. It’s honestly kind of hard to miss and quite surprising. It’s similar to how the billboards in Las Vegas have changed over time from mostly announcing famous DJ residencies to advertising cannabis dispensaries.
Los Angeles has had an unlicensed (illegal) dispensary problem for years. The situation in New York City isn’t quite the same, because the cannabis trucks and storefronts aren’t yet competing with licensed retail dispensaries (although the City does have a handful of medical dispensaries), but we’ll see whether there’s a crackdown on these illegal operations once licensed dispensaries start operating. It’s not just a matter of safety, it’s a problem of fairness to those operators who are complying with the law. Otherwise, the entire point of regulated cannabis is lost. I don’t know how this problem is fixed without significant government support, but it’s going to be a real challenge for the industry, both in the short term and the long term.
Although, this does give me some interesting ideas for my hypothetical CBD knish truck…..