How New York City Became a Free-for-All of Unlicensed Weed

Shops selling weed have proliferated since the state legalized cannabis last year, thriving in confusion over their legality and a lack of enforcement.

Scores of shops claiming to sell cannabis have sprung up throughout New York State over the last year following the legalization of recreational use. Credit…Evelyn Freja for The New York Times

By Ashley Southall – New York Times – Nov. 23, 2022

On a recent Sunday afternoon, Austin Garza, a tourist from Dallas, stopped by the flagship store of Weed World Candies in Midtown Manhattan and bought two pre-rolled joints.

Outside, he opened a yellow tube labeled Super Silver Haze. He took out a joint to smoke and offered puffs to passers-by, three of whom obliged.

The store opened in 2019 and had been an outlier among the pizza parlors, novelty shops and officer towers on Seventh Avenue between Times Square and Penn Station. But in recent months, several more smoke shops and dispensaries have sprung up on the same strip, illegally selling cannabis products to tourists, city dwellers and commuters.

The sleek dispensaries and tacky bodegas are part of an explosion of unlicensed cannabis shops that have opened in New York over the past year as part of a rush to cash in on the state’s legalization of cannabis.

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