The Unlicensed and the Illegal

Finally, there appears to be some worthy press on the thousands of illegal cannabis stores that have overtaken NYC. I saw it in the “registering complaints” real estate section of the NYT. Why this is not front-page news is mind-boggling to me.

Here are some facts. The Office of Cannabis Management (OCM) first released the original round of dispensary licenses the week of Thanksgiving 2022. Currently, only 26 legal dispensaries are operating in the entire state; eleven of them are in NYC, including all the boroughs.

Walk around the city and ask people what they think of the illegal dispensaries. They hate them, and even the kids hate them. They are spiffed-up bodegas, and some are just fancy in-your-face cannabis stores. Nobody wants to hang out there.

I read the announcements that the Government is moving forward with removing these illegal dispensaries. I have not seen much progress. There is no doubt that these stores impact Gotham. There are ten in a two-block radius of our store. It is frustrating, but we continue to work hard, follow the rules, and try to grow.

Here are some facts about why this information should be on the front page of the NYT. Although California has been in the consumer cannabis for a decade, the state will rake in $5.3B in 2027. Colorado will do $1.7B, another mature state with a decade under its belt. Illinois opened up three years ago and will do $1.9B this year. Illinois has 12.7 million people, and Colorado has 5.8 million people. These numbers suggest that Illinois has rolled out a solid program, although I am sure there are hiccups, as there always are.

A year after the dispensary licenses have been given out, NYS will do $12m in revenue, estimating $340m for 2027. These are legal numbers. Note the vast difference between Illinois and NYS; almost 20 million people live in NYS, about 35% larger than Illinois. They do not include the illegal dispensaries on every corner. Think about how much is being lost in tax dollars and how this industry will be one of the largest revenue sources for the country in the years to come.

In 2023, the US will reach roughly $35-40B in cannabis sales, in the US. Numbers in 2027 could go as high as $55B. These are significant numbers.

We are attempting to build a new industry with limited capital and absurdly high taxes that employs and will employ millions that is undoubtedly a worthy party of the economy; why is it so hard for the Federal Government to reschedule marijuana, and change the tax structure, and why is it so hard for NYS to do something about the illegal stores include making PSAs to inform the public?

My daily frustration.