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Syracuse lawmakers pass law targeting illegal cannabis sales

Cannabis Urlaub

The city of Syracuse is cracking down on illegal marijuana dealers setting up shop across the city. Lawmakers say it’s a widespread problem because the state has taken too long to create regulations for legitimate cannabis businesses.

New York legalized recreational marijuana nearly two years ago, and it’s taken that long for the state to formulate regulations for the legal sale of cannabis, only issuing its first batch of licenses to dealers late last month.

That void has led to illegal pop-up shops across the city. Westside Common Councilor Pat Hogan visited one of the illegal dispensaries in an abandoned building in his district, shocked at the extent of the setup.

"Not that I know many drug dealers, but the average drug dealer deals out of his house or a corner," said Hogan. "He doesn’t deal out of a 2,000 square foot building, in the middle of the neighborhood and he’s advertising on social media, and there’s people parked all over the place, and he’s got all sorts of vendors set up with armed security."

That pop-up was ultimately shut down. But others continue to turn up, leading to frustrations for lawmakers like Councilor Chol Majok

"As the state is still developing procedures and protocols for this cannabis law," said Majok. "And it’s hitting localities, and something needs to happen."

So, lawmakers this week passed measures aimed at illegal marijuana dealers in a couple of ways.

“Civil action against illegal cannabis pop-ups," said Hogan. "And we also tightened up legislation regarding disorderly businesses."

That would allow the codes department to potentially be able to shut these shops down. Lawmakers also unanimously approved a memorializing resolution asking the state to come up with the money for communities that are dealing with these illegal drug operations.

Majok said there will be added costs from these unintended consequences, to the codes and police departments.

"The state should have been more proactive, rather than let the legislation lead. Resources should have followed," he said.

All this doesn’t mean the city is opposed to the legalization of recreational marijuana. Councilor Jimmy Monto made that point after voting for the crackdowns.

"I believe the recreational use being legal is the right thing to do," said Monto. "But we need guidance, and in the meantime, we can’t just have illegal businesses popping up all over the city."

Ellen produces news reports and features related to events that occur in the greater Syracuse area and throughout Onondaga County. Her reports are heard regularly in regional updates in Morning Edition and All Things Considered.