New York’s Illicit Cannabis Market Is Booming, But Do You Know Why?

By Terry Hacienda, The Fresh Toast on

Published in Cannabis Daily

The inaction of the New York cannabis regulators to implement the law is disappointing. With no one taking intense action to curb this activity, it would continue to get out of hand.

This article originally appeared on and has been reposted with permission.

New York is set to launch its legal recreational cannabis market in the next few weeks, but all of this could be tainted by the thriving illicit market in the sector.

PharmaCann, an Illinois-based multistate operator, recently said that New York cannabis regulators need to find a way to eliminate the growing illegal activities in the state’s cannabis ecosystem. As one of the holders of New York’s lucrative vertical medical cannabis licenses, the company says the state must put in all effort to crack down on all private and public individuals steering the wheel of illegal activities.

Reports reveal that the state regulatory body has refrained from attacking a few individuals because they hoped to cajole them into getting involved in the regulated industry. But the current rampant state of illegal cannabis cultivation and sales in New York is more reason first to attack these people. Every Legal Operator Wants the Same Thing The illicit marijuana market significantly impacted New York’s existing medical cannabis sector. Legal operators had to cut losses a few times because the market was lopsided in favor of illegal operators.

The senior vice president of regulatory and public affairs at PharmaCann, Jeremy Unruh, commented that the thriving illicit cannabis market undermines the General Assembly’s objective of launching an impartial, profit-inclined legal market. In his email to MJBizDaily, he noted that stakeholders have begun to understand that resources must be allocated to clear out illegal practices in the ecosystem. He pointed out that this act does not contradict the state’s decriminalization goals.


Ghitelman, a top personality in the office of cannabis management, also echoed the same thing. In his email, he said New York State is committed to building an unrivaled legal, regulated adult-use market to guarantee all products for sale are tested and fit for consumption. He also noted that the program plans to provide equal opportunities for members of communities that have been put at a disadvantage by the extreme criminalization of the war on drugs. Ghitelman stressed that the program’s goal would be limited by the vast illegal operations in the state. Illicit Cannabis Operations In New York Since the days when cannabis was universally prohibited, all states have had a fraction of illegal cannabis operations—which law enforcement did their “best” to curb. However, these operations are still running, even in the face of regulations and newer policies to permit the use and sales of the drug.

New York’s illegal marijuana operations operate from unsightly locations like small storefronts, stalls, and consumption lounges.

Some legal NY cannabis businesses have to gift cannabis to customers illegally. This practice started soon after these businesses discovered a legal loophole in the new legislation. It is a common occurrence in new and prospective adult-use markets, including Vermont.

These businesses claim to repay customers’ patronage with cannabis products. For example, if you purchase a T-shirt or club membership pass from a company, the company will include a cannabis gift in the package. Some marijuana-related businesses also do this when customers pay for marijuana delivery.


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