NYC sheriff, 102nd Precinct inspector discuss illegal cannabis shops at Community Board 9 meeting in South Richmond Hill

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(From l. to r.) Rokeya Akhter, community coordinator of the Queens District Attorney Office, NYPD 102nd Precinct Inspector Jeremy Kivlin and NYC Sheriff Anthony Miranda discuss illegal cannabis shops at the Community Board 9 meeting at the Villa Russo in South Richmond Hill on Tuesday, April 11. (Photo by Carlotta Mohamed)

New York City Sheriff Anthony Miranda addressed Community Board 9 members’ concerns about the proliferation of illegal cannabis smoke shops during a public meeting held at the Villa Russo in South Richmond Hill on Tuesday, April 11. 

Miranda explained the multi-agency effort to run the Smoke Shop Task Force, which includes the Sheriff’s Office, the NYS Office of Cannabis Management, the NYPD, the city Department of Consumer and Worker Protection (DCWP), the FDNY and others. 

“We are targeting this not because it’s cannabis, but because it’s a health issue now,” Miranda said. “The illegal cannabis is unregulated — that means that they can mix these products with anything. They become a danger even to the people who want to use the products legally. In addition to that, the legal people could be getting them sick as well.” 

(Photo by Carlotta Mohamed)

According to Miranda, the owners running the smoke shops are operating contrary to state regulations and any regulations that are currently in place. 

“There are certain hampers in rules and regulations that we follow. The multi-agency response was so that no one agency could be told that they have enforcement. We all have to collectively be able to address the issue,” Miranda said. 

In response to a question regarding owners having multiple cannabis shops and cash flow/money laundering, Miranda said they have ongoing investigations that “target people who track the money, where the money goes to, who’s behind the money, and how many different corporations they have in New York City.” 

“Probably sooner or later, you will be seeing a culmination of some of these long-term investigations that have been going on…we’re working directly with some federal agencies as well as city agencies,” Miranda said. 

Miranda added there’s still a lot to be discovered and hopefully there will be changes in the next couple of months as legislation pending and budget negotiations continue. 

“We have been working with the police department, with all of the agencies, as well as the governor’s office about how to make some recommendations to the chambers has been proposed so we can have that enforcement and be able to respond better to community complaints,” Miranda said.

The nuisance abatement law, which can be used to shut down unlicensed shops, can take up to two years to complete. In the meantime, the office is working with city, state and even federal agencies to investigate, Miranda said. 

Senator Joseph Addabbo Jr. noted a smoke shop located across the street from his office on Jamaica Avenue in Woodhaven. 

“I saw two 15 or 16 year old kids in there. I thought they were probably buying something that they shouldn’t be buying. I watched them and they looked a little nervous,” Addabbo said. “To see these minors come out of the store bothers me.” 

The senator added that he has appointed someone from his office who will be dedicated to working with the NYPD, city agencies and the Sheriff’s Department, to report illegal smoke shops in the community. 

“I had voted no for legalizing marijuana because I thought the language wasn’t really what it should’ve been. I don’t think we were ready, and now we see weren’t ready because nobody thought about these illegal smoke shops popping up,” Addabbo said. 

NYPD 102nd Precinct Inspector Jeremy Kivlin said the closure of illegal smoke shops is the ultimate punishment. According to Kivlin, his police officers have gone undercover on many occasions to bust businesses operating illegally without a license, specifically those that sell marijuana to underage children. 

“We purchase marijuana from them and if we have enough incidents, we can then submit for a nuisance abatement,” Kivlin said. “We’ve submitted five locations for nuisance abatement.” 

NYPD 102nd Precinct Inspector Jeremy Kivlin speaks at the Community Board 9 meeting at the Villa Russo in South Richmond Hill on Tuesday, April 11. (Photo by Carlotta Mohamed)

A store on 106-13 Jamaica Ave. is currently closed, according to Kivlin, and the precinct is awaiting on four more closures. While it’s a bit of a lengthy process, Kivlin said he’s confident that working with the NYPD legal department will lead to the closure of the businesses. 

In his report to the community regarding an update on the ongoing investigation of The Plug Smoke Shop shooting incident in Richmond Hill that occurred last month, Kivlin said the precinct has persons of interest and are hopeful to have the case closed. 

“This was something that started out as a robbery, and unfortunately, the individual behind the counter may have gotten into a scuffle with one of the perpetrators and lost his life,” Kivlin said. “That incident was very tragic. It’s important to me, the precinct and the community as well.”