Queens Lawmakers Rally for SMOKEOUT Act

By Celia Bernhardt | [email protected]

Credit: Celia Bernhardt

State Assemblyperson Jenifer Rajkumar held a rally with State Senator Leroy Comrie and about 20 supporters on the steps of City Hall on Friday to call for the SMOKEOUT Act to be included in the State’s enacted budget.

The SMOKEOUT (Stop Marijuana Overproliferation and Keep Empty Operators of Unlicensed Transactions) Act, first introduced in early January, is Rajkumar’s proposed fix to the state’s bumpy rollout of cannabis legalization and the proliferation of thousands of illegal, unlicensed smoke shops through the five boroughs. Under the proposed rule, local municipalities would have the power to shutter illegal shops and seize all merchandise. Currently, that power is reserved for the State’s Office of Cannabis Management, which has only 14 inspectors statewide.

“I think all New Yorkers feel right now like they’re high, because they look at the situation and it makes no sense,” Rajkumar said at the rally. “There are 1000 times more illegal shops than there are legal shops. There’s only about 60 legal shops in the whole state. And there’s 36,000 illegal shops. How can this be? Am I high right now?”

A Staten Island community leader displays her sign. Credit: Celia Bernhardt

Comrie told the crowd that the issue was consistently top of mind among his constitutents. “Every meeting I attend, everywhere I go, people want to see these places shut down,” he said. “The ones that have been inspected, they found rat feces in the basement. They found other chemicals that are being mixed in with the marijuana. You don’t know what you’re getting. You’re not getting it from a safe supplier.”

Rajkumar’s office estimates there are about 1,500 illegal shops in New York City alone. Previous estimates cited by Council Member Lyn Schulman this past summer put that number much higher, at 8,000. Mayor Eric Adams has claimed that if Rajkumar’s legislation is enacted, the city could shut down every illegal shop in 30 days.

“The state budget is due on April 1. That’s five and a half weeks from today. On April 1, I don’t want to be standing here saying ‘April Fools,’” Rajumar said. “I want to be standing here saying ‘we have put the SMOKEOUT Act in the state budget.’”

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