ALBANY,N.Y. (NEWS10)— During a Senate hearing in Albany, both Democratic and Republican lawmakers criticized the legal cannabis rollout in New York State. One of their top concerns— illegal cannabis shops.

“Law enforcement has raised concerns over the enforcement of the illegal market place, which seems to be growing, not taken out of the picture,” said Senator Joe Griffo. “So do you believe and see the sense of urgency here? What can we do to correct this problem now?

“I think a solution to many of the problems, both on the supply chain side as well as it relates to illicit shops, is the opening of more legal shops,” responded Christopher Alexander, Executive Director of the Office of Cannabis Management.” We have to close the illegal ones and open more legal ones. When folks have a better alternative, as we have seen on Long Island for example, folks will go to that shop.

Senator Brad Hoylman-Sigal listed several illegal stores in his district, saying some have been selling to high schoolers.
“What are we gonna do about it? This is as much as it’s an inconvenience and undermines the legal market, this is a public health issue particularly for young people,” asked Hoylman-Sigal. “Does it not deserve a more expedited process for addressing the illegal shops?

” I absolutely agree senator,” Alexander replied. “That remains a felony offense that remains on the books.”

When asked how many illegal stores are operating in New York State, OCM said it doesn’t keep track of a number.

Another big issue— there are only 27 legal stores open, leaving farmers with a surplus of crop they can’t sell. Senator Michelle Hinchey asked how much money farmers have lost because of this. ” I don’t have that number,” said Alexander. “I’ll have to get back to you on that.”

OCM said it is in support of a recovery fund to help farmers who are struggling. Lawmakers will be back in January for the start of the legislative session.