NEW YORK - It’s hard to miss the marijuana shops on almost every block in New York City.
According to the NYPD, more than 1,300 illegal marijuana stores are selling pot without a license.
"I admit, I don't think we ever talked about this scenario happening," St. Senator Liz Krueger said.
Senator Krueger worked on the state’s recreational marijuana legislation for about 7 years.
But she admits that Democrats never accounted for such an expansive illegal market to pop up while the legal market was still being rolled out.
"Did we know there would continue to be an illegal market even as we rolled out and grew a legal market, yes," Krueger said. "But I don't think that we saw anything like this happening in the other states where there was almost an organized come on in and just start opening all these stores."
There were some outside factors.
Once the recreational marijuana bill was passed in March 2021, then Governor Andrew Cuomo failed to appoint anyone to the Office of Cannabis Management. It was considered an important step to kick-start the industry.
"He made it very clear he had no intention of letting it move anywhere or hiring anyone to start the agency," Krueger explained.
It wasn’t until Governor Kathy Hochul took office at the end of August 2021, did the ball get rolling on the recreational market.
"But that still sincerely probably put us a step behind, about eight or nine months before we could ever start anything," Krueger said.
New York City Council members released a report this week that the illegal weed market could make it hard for legal pot stores to survive.
Right now, the NYPD claims there are roadblocks to seizing cannabis being sold illegally.
But Krueger says she doesn’t believe this is entirely the case.
"We think there are clearly laws that the NYPD can and should be using. And I'm a little frustrated," Krueger admitted.
But Krueger says she realizes that they need to make it easier for cops to crack down on these shops.
The senator is working on a bill with her partner in the Assembly, Majority Leader Crystal Peoples-Stokes, and Governor Kathy Hochul that would crack down on illicit sales in shops.
It includes revoking business licenses from shops also selling tobacco, fining landlords for renting to illegal businesses, and making it easier for the NYPD to seize cannabis products.
"They need another set of steps and even a different agency to come in and take the cannabis products away," Krueger said. "We didn't understand that the authority given certain agencies didn't apply to cannabis because there wasn't a legal cannabis question."
There is still a lawsuit blocking recreational marijuana dispensaries from opening in Brooklyn and Western New York.