Landlords could face big fines as new bill aims to crack down on illegal smoke shops

Illegal smoke shops continue to get shut down. But what about the landlords who let the shops operate in the first place? 

"A lot of them actually pay cash to the landlord, so it makes sense for them to do that," said Queens Councilwoman Lynn Schulman. 

Not only do illegal pot shops pay landlords in cash, but they're springing up everywhere, which is essential in a city stacked with empty storefronts post-pandemic. But the new tenants, according to Schulman, bring nothing but trouble for the neighbors. 

"These illegal shops sell to kids," Schulman said. "The cannabis they sell has been found to be adulterated." 

And because they deal in all cash, they're prime targets for thieves, who have no problem resorting to violence. Which is why a new law is now in effect that goes after not just the 8,000 illegal smokes shops in the city, but the landlords too. And no, they will not be able to claim they didn't know what was going on. 

"The landlord gets a letter from the city, saying your renting to an entity that's conducting illegal business and we want you to evict them," Schulman said. 

That's the warning. Then after an inspection, if the shop is still there, the landlord is fined an initial $5,000. If still nothing is done, they'll get another fine of $10,000, and another one, and another one until they evict their criminal tenant. 

New Yorkers may see and smell smoke shops everywhere, but there's actually only a handful of licensed stores. The city says the presence of thousands of illegal stores undermines the actual licensed recreational marijuana market, but it deprives New York of serious tax revenue.