Struggling to stop illegal cannabis stores, New York governor asks online sites to hide them

Feb 28, 2024, 6:11 PM

New York Gov. Kathy Hochul holds up a phone that displays a map of illegal cannabis stores as entre...

New York Gov. Kathy Hochul holds up a phone that displays a map of illegal cannabis stores as entrepreneur Alfredo Angueira looks on during a press conference, Wednesday, Feb. 28, 2024 in New York. Unable to reign in illegal cannabis shops in New York, the state's governor is asking digital mapping and search companies to hide or relabel the many illegal shops. (AP Photo/Stefan Jeremiah)

(AP Photo/Stefan Jeremiah)

NEW YORK (AP) — After failing to wipe illegal cannabis dispensaries off the map, New York is asking online sites to hide them.

Since the state legalized marijuana in 2021, unlicensed pot shops have proliferated across New York City, with limited pushback from authorities. On Tuesday, Gov. Kathy Hochul called on online map and social media companies to stop listing them.

“If you type in ‘cannabis dispensaries’ in Google Maps or Yelp, you’ll get a long list of unlicensed illegal vendors,” Hochul, a Democrat, said Tuesday, speaking to reporters alongside some of the owners of licensed, legal weed stores that make up a tiny minority of the cannabis shops in New York City.

In a statement, Yelp said the company believes “consumers have a First Amendment right to read and write about all businesses, even if unlicensed.”

“Allowing users to contribute and see information … about unlicensed businesses serves the public interest and provides a resource for regulators to determine whether any particular business has appropriate licenses,” the statement read.

Legal marijuana shops in New York pay a vice tax, purchase from local farms, and submit to quality control testing to ensure their products aren’t laced with other drugs and aren’t stronger or weaker than their label says.

But so far, fewer than 80 cannabis licensed stores have opened around the state, where strict eligibility requirements and lawsuits have contributed to slowing the rollout. Meanwhile, it’s common for a single neighborhood in New York City to have a dozen illegal ones.

Hochul vowed to crack down eight months ago, but has failed to make noticeable progress.

Aiming to avoid an echo of prohibition-era criminalization of drug sales, New York state’s marijuana legalization doesn’t include severe criminal punishment for illegal sales and doesn’t allow most law enforcement agencies to enforce pot laws.

Legislation that Hochul signed last May gave the state powers for inspections, seizures, fines that can reach $20,000 a day and, in some cases, close shops and go after landlords.

But the governor on Wednesday said she has since learned that it wasn’t enough. She said the fines aren’t high enough to deter people, and noted the appeals process takes many months, allowing shops to continue raking in tax-free profits off unlicensed products that are less expensive because they can be purchased out of state.

New York City itself has tried to stem the tide by going after landlords, but Mayor Eric Adams has been imploring Albany to grant the city more power to respond.

Hochul has asked the Democrat-controlled state Legislature to pass new legislation to grant more enforcement authority to city agencies, increase fines, and give law enforcement permission to shut down illegal stores before the appeals process plays out.

In the meantime, Hochul is asking tech companies “to not be posting the sites that are illegal and ensure that they’re posting the legal shops.”

Local cannabis entrepreneur Osbert Orduña said Google Maps keeps delisting his legal shops, one in New Jersey, and another in Queens, New York. He said he’s never had trouble with his listings on Yelp, though he’d like the site to delist illegal operators as well.

“Four times, Google has taken us down off of their platform for ‘violating their terms of service.’ We’ve done nothing other than have our store hours and our basic business information listed,” he said.

Google didn’t immediately respond to a query about Orduña’s specific circumstances, but noted in a statement responding to Hochul’s comments that it does remove listings for closed venues.

“If we can confirm that a business has closed for any reason – including license issues – we’ll reflect that it’s closed in the listing. We also prohibit cannabis ads in New York and remove them upon detection, often before they ever run,” the statement read.

Orduña said he also wants his illegal competitors, some of whom he knows personally, to be closed down. He says they tell him he’s playing a “sucker’s game.” But as a former Marine, he likes to do things by the book and even plans on expanding to open another store in Queens next week.

United States News

Associated Press

Jurors in Trump’s hush money trial zero in on testimony of key witnesses as deliberations resume

NEW YORK (AP) — The jury in Donald Trump’s hush money trial is to resume deliberations Thursday after asking to rehear potentially crucial testimony about the alleged hush money scheme at the heart of the history-making case. The 12-person jury deliberated for about 4 1/2 hours on Wednesday without reaching a verdict. Besides asking to […]

14 minutes ago


Associated Press

Alito rejects calls to quit Supreme Court cases on Trump and Jan. 6 because of flag controversies

Justice Samuel Alito is rejecting calls to step aside from Supreme Court cases involving former President Donald Trump and Jan. 6 defendants, saying his wife hoisted the two controversial flags that flew above their homes.

2 hours ago


Associated Press

Nissan warns owners of older vehicles about risk of exploding air bag inflators

Nissan is urging the owners of about 84,000 older vehicles to stop driving them because their Takata air bag inflators have an increased risk of exploding in a crash and hurling dangerous metal fragments.

3 hours ago

Associated Press

Seattle police chief dismissed from top job amid discrimination, harassment lawsuits

SEATTLE (AP) — Seattle’s embattled police chief has been dismissed, Mayor Bruce Harrel said Wednesday. Harrell said at a news conference that he met with Police Chief Adrian Diaz on Tuesday and they agreed Diaz should step down. He will work on special assignments for the mayor with the police department, Harrell said. Diaz’s departure […]

4 hours ago

Associated Press

Disneyland performers’ vote to unionize is certified by federal labor officials

ANAHEIM, Calif. (AP) — Character and parade performers at Disneyland in California are officially unionized. Federal labor officials said Wednesday that they’ve certified the results of a three-day election that took place earlier this month in Anaheim. Actors’ Equity Association will represent roughly 1,700 performers and assistants who help bring Disney’s popular characters to life […]

4 hours ago

Associated Press

Michigan willing to spend millions to restore Flint properties ripped up by pipe replacement

DETROIT (AP) — The state of Michigan said it’s willing to step in and oversee property repairs at 1,900 homes in Flint where water pipes have been inspected or replaced but the grounds remain a mess. The city in March was found in civil contempt by a judge after blowing past deadlines to get the […]

5 hours ago

Sponsored Articles


Condor Airlines

Condor Airlines can get you smoothly from Phoenix to Frankfurt on new A330-900neo airplane

Adventure Awaits! And there's no better way to experience the vacation of your dreams than traveling with Condor Airlines.



Desert Institute for Spine Care is the place for weekend warriors to fix their back pain

Spring has sprung and nothing is better than March in Arizona. The temperatures are perfect and with the beautiful weather, Arizona has become a hotbed for hikers, runners, golfers, pickleball players and all types of weekend warriors.


Collins Comfort Masters

Here’s 1 way to ensure your family is drinking safe water

Water is maybe one of the most important resources in our lives, and especially if you have kids, you want them to have access to safe water.

Struggling to stop illegal cannabis stores, New York governor asks online sites to hide them