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Illegal smoke shop in Jackson Heights reopens days after being shut down by NYC Sheriff’s office

Photo via Council Member Shekar Krishnan on Instagram/ @voteshekar

Apr. 24, 2024 By Ethan Marshall

Just days after the New York City Sheriff’s office shut down the illegal smoke shop “Haze Land” in Jackson Heights Thursday, the store ended up reopening, much to the chagrin of local leaders.

The shop, located at 37-07 82nd St., was swept and closed due to the fact that it did not meet the requirements needed for consideration of a licensed shop, as it was located close to a local school.

According to a spokesperson for the Sheriff’s office, the inspection resulted in multiple arrests for criminal possession of a controlled substance.

“With the Sheriff’s office, we inspected and shut down Haze Land,” Queens Council Member Shekar Krishnan posted on Instagram Friday. “But this is the problem: they’re open again one day after their entire inventory was seized. Selling illegal cannabis half a block away from a school. This is endangering kids while undermining the legal industry. We need city and state agencies to get control over effective enforcement.”

According to a source familiar with the matter, the sweep had been planned for multiple weeks. Coincidentally, it occurred on the same day that new regulations for cannabis shops were passed in New York City as part of the latest budget. However, these regulations were not in effect when the sweep occurred, limiting the actions that the Sheriff’s office could take at the time.

Since Governor Hochul signed the budget and regulations into effect over the weekend, the Sheriff’s office can now take the actions they permitted.

One of the new regulations included in this legislation is the ability for the Sheriff’s office to permanently padlock a location like this, thus preventing the store from reopening. The legislation, sponsored by Council Members Lynn Schulman and Joann Ariola, also holds landlords accountable for knowingly renting space to illegal cannabis operators. Landlords who do this will face $50,000 fines and additional penalties. Penalties are also increased for shop owners.

It has become commonplace for illegal cannabis shops across New York City to end up reopening a day or two after being shut down by the city. The hope among lawmakers is that these new regulations can better prevent this trend from continuing.

Queens Assemblymember Catalina Cruz said she was not surprised to see the store reopen so quickly, even after the inventory was seized. However, with the new regulations approved by the city, she has already reached out to the Sheriff’s office to notify them about Haze Land reopening.

“We reached out to [Sheriff Anthony Miranda] and discussed with his team what the next steps could be,” Cruz said. “His team committed that the minute that the Governor would sign the law into effect, they would schedule another sweep to come back. We expect that [the sweep] will happen within the next couple of weeks.”

As the Sheriff’s office prepares to crack down on illegal cannabis shops across the city more severely, the office is expected to soon receive more officers from the upcoming graduating class, who will be able to help shut down more of these shops at a faster pace.

“The way that it stood before, there was not enough manpower or power under the law to close up the shops permanently,” Cruz said. “But now, my hope is that in the next two to three months, you see all of the [illegal smoke shops] shut down.”

Queens Assemblymember Steven Raga, who has been working closely with Assemblymember Cruz and Council Member Krishnan, had a similar reaction to Cruz upon hearing the smoke shop reopened days after it was shut down.

“While I was upset, I can’t say I was completely surprised to see Haze Land reopen so quickly,” Raga said. Many illegal cannabis shops have accepted fines and enforcement as the cost of doing business. This situation only sheds light on gaps in our current enforcement process and also demonstrates why illegal cannabis enforcement measures were included in this year’s state budget.”
He is optimistic that the initiatives included in the latest New York State budget will help authorities better address illegal smoke shops.
“Local authorities, like the NYPD, will be able to confiscate inventory and padlock these stores and finally be able to prevent them from opening again overnight,” Raga said. “Over the next few months, we’ll be able to see how well these changes work. If it turns out New York City needs more support in addressing illegal cannabis shops, we’ll do our part in the state legislature to provide it.”
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Concerned Citizen

The Schools is a charter school. It is not ‘exclusively’ operated as a school which does not fit the criteria for a restriction of licensing of 500 feet. NYS mandates school buildings must be ‘exlusively’ operated as a school which this one is not. It is a rental in a mixed-use property. This article is mis-leading.


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