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Unlicensed cannabis dispensaries growing like weeds in Manhattan

The reefer craze is rampant in Manhattan.

Clever budtenders are taking advantage of a loophole in state law to sell weed at unlicensed dispensaries that are now flooding neighborhoods, including the Lower East Side.

While cannabis is legal in New York State, licensed dispensaries have yet to open. This means that while possession of less than three ounces of weed is kosher, no one is an approved legal seller.

That hasn’t stopped Lonny Bramzon from dodging the law — by selling digital content, like a video or a mixtape and hand out a marijuana gift along the way.

“Getting nervous is for the weak,” Bramzon said of operating his unlicensed cannabis dispensary, Street Lawyer Services, on Stanton Street.

“Everyone is happy and loves the digital content. We are a cannabis content lounge and also a community space. It’s a beautiful thing.”

The Empire Cannabis Club, which has unlicensed stores in Chelsea and the Lower East Side, also sells weed – through a membership service.

“We have accepted the blessing of the New York State Legislature allowing for the non-profit transfer of cannabis and have established a membership service whereby the club purchases cannabis products for its members and only adds the cost to facilitate the purchase and transfer of those products ‘ explains Empire’s website.

Street Lawyer Services, an unlicensed marijuana dispensary in the Lower East Side.
Street Lawyer Services, an unlicensed marijuana dispensary in the Lower East Side.
New York Post
Lonny Bramzon, owner of Street Lawyer Services, called the company a "Cannabis Content Lounge."
Lonny Bramzon, owner of Street Lawyer Services, called the company a “cannabis content lounge.”
New York Post

Industry leaders told the Post that while pharmacies are getting away with their gifting program now, it may not last forever. Worse, they could be violating federal laws.

Marijuana is still illegal under federal law, and crossing state lines with a bag could result in criminal prosecution. According to experts, most of the weed sold in these stores is also not grown in New York.

When dispensaries open in New York with full state approval, they’ll only be allowed to sell weed grown within state lines, but that infrastructure doesn’t yet exist. Once New York State is ready to open legal cannabis stores, those who have tried to get ahead of the government will likely be unable to continue operating, experts say.

“These stores are jeopardizing their chance of getting a license later this year,” said Joe Rossi, chief executive of lobbying firm Park Strategies, which runs the group’s cannabis division. “We say that’s the difference between short-term greed and long-term greed.”

Bramzon sells digital content to customers and gives away marijuana as "Gift."
Bramzon sells digital content to customers and gives away marijuana as a “gift.”
New York Post

Rossi said he wasn’t sure “the juice is worth the squeeze”.

“Our advice to everyone is don’t get on the wrong side of the Office of Cannabis Management,” he added.

Office of Cannabis Management spokesman Aaron Ghitelman told the Post unequivocally that these dispensaries “are illegal as there are currently no licensed adult-use cannabis sales in New York State, and we will work with our partners to enforce the law.” ”

His office has already issued more than 50 cease and desist letters, warning businesses that “any unlicensed sale of cannabis is illegal” and that “failure to cease this activity will affect your ability to obtain a license in the legal cannabis market, impairs significant risk.”

Bongs at Street Lawyer Services in Manhattan.
Bongs at Street Lawyer Services in Manhattan.
New York Post

“New York State is building a legal, regulated cannabis market that ensures products are tested and safe for consumers, while providing opportunities for those in communities hardest hit by the over-criminalization of cannabis prohibition – illegal operations undermine our ability to do this.” he said.

Ghitelman also said the product being sold may not be safe, a message echoed by Gregory Tannor, a cannabis real estate agent.

“We call them trap houses,” Tannor said. “You don’t know what you’re going to get at the end of the day,” and most product is sold in loose bags and unsealed, he added.

Tannor is hoping unlicensed dispensaries will be closed, and he and his colleagues are excited to see weed legally sold in the state.

Many employees and owners of unlicensed pharmacies declined to speak to The Post about their activities.

Bramzon said his company does "everything we can to comply with the law.”
Bramzon said his company is doing “everything we can to comply with the law.”
New York Post

Hemp on Wheels, a mobile dispensary that’s wheeled out of a black truck adorned with giant green cannabis leaves, said it didn’t realize it was breaking the law.

“Oh no, [I] I hope we are fine. We have a temporary license. I didn’t know about that,” said one manager, who declined to give his name.

Empire Cannabis Clubs and its attorney declined to comment.

Bramzon, meanwhile, said Street Lawyer Services is doing “everything we can to comply with the law.”

“We work with a business license, we pay taxes, we have security,” he said.

“I’m not about turning my nose at authority or being a rebel… it’s about spreading love.”

https://nypost.com/2022/04/06/unlicensed-cannabis-dispensaries-growing-like-weeds-in-manhattan/ Unlicensed cannabis dispensaries growing like weeds in Manhattan

JACLYN DIAZ

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