Syracuse, N.Y. — A Syracuse University-area shop illegally selling marijuana on the “gray market” is apparently moving out.
That decision comes after a syracuse.com report this week used the shop to highlight problems with the state’s current cannabis laws. The report detailed the concerns that neighbors had with the shop and the difficulties the city had faced in dealing with unlicensed marijuana retailers since weed possession became legal in April 2021.
The shop at 206 Kensington Road has a new hand-drawn sign on its window reading “Moving Nov. 1st.” In an email to syracuse.com, the owner, who has not provided his name, confirmed, “Yep scrambling to find another location! We shall see.”
A person calling himself “Bob Weeds” and claiming to be the shop owner, posted a comment on the Greater Westcott Nation Facebook page saying his landlord asked him to leave after the syracuse.com report was posted on Wednesday. He also indicated a new cannabis business of some sort may come to the space.
“I’m sorry some were bothered by our presence in the community. I poured a ton of time, money and effort into making that store clean and safe for customers and employees. I myself swept up garbage every few days simply because it needed to be done. I’ve been in the cannabis industry for 18 years now and hope to be able to continue, but it looks like it’s going the way of big business.
“Just to set the record straight, the police have not contacted me in any way, codes came by and issued the neighbors upstairs a citation, but nothing for me. After the article aired, the landlord asked me to leave because someone else in the cannabis industry is buying the building and wants me out before the sale closes. Thank you guys for allowing me in your neighborhood even for a short time. Cheers!”
The Kensington Road shop, located near the corner with Lancaster Avenue, opened in September in what had been a barber shop / hair salon. It appeared to be either selling marijuana, or offering it as a gift with another purchase.
Although New York state legalized the possession of recreational marijuana for adult use in 2021, it has not yet issued licenses for retailers to to sell it. The first legal shops may open on a limited basis by the end of the year.
Across the state, from New York City to Buffalo, thousands of illicit unlicensed shops have started selling or gifting marijuana in a gray area outside the law. These shops, in effect, are selling marijuana now like convenience markets that attempt to sell beer without first getting a state liquor license.
The state’s relatively new Office of Cannabis Management, which regulates marijuana businesses, has made it clear that unlicensed operations are illegal. It has issued “cease and desist” letters to some.
But cities and towns around the state have had difficulty enforcing the law in their jurisdictions.
Jake Dishaw, director of Syracuse’s Office of Code Enforcement, confirmed that his department has not yet visited the Kensington Road shop, although it had been exploring its options after hearing from concerned neighbors.
Dishaw told syracuse.com in the earlier story that his office can shut down businesses if they fail to to obtain permits, violate zoning ordinances or otherwise fail inspections. But he said such action takes time and requires “due process” for the operator. It has shut down a handful of unlicensed operations so far.
He also said that while he has reached out to the state cannabis office, he believes it has not provided enough support or help to cities dealing with the illicit shops.
“… I’ve been frustrated with what this policy has created for local governments,” he said. “The state put out all these proposals but what that creates is what you’re seeing — all these pop-up illegal establishments, with no help from the state in enforcement. We’re kind of on our own.”
Syracuse Police Chief Joe Cecile echoed that in an email sent to neighbors concerned about the Kensington Road store.
“As you are probably aware these places have become increasingly problematic and difficult to regulate with the new laws,” Cecile wrote. “Ultimately the NYS Office of Cannabis Management is the enforcement arm for these types of shops.”
Don Cazentre writes for NYup.com, syracuse.com and The Post-Standard. Reach him at [email protected], or follow him at NYup.com, on Twitter or Facebook.