Operators of several southeast Queens smoke shops arrested after joint operation against illicit cannabis sales

Southeast Queens smoke shops were targeted by the 105th Precinct and the NYC Sheriff’s Office and arrests were made for illicit cannabis sales. (Photos courtesy of NYC Sheriff’s Office)

As the citywide crackdown on smoke shop owners who skirt marijuana licensing rules continues, Councilwoman Nantasha Williams is applauding a joint operation by the 105th Precinct in Queens Village and the NYC Sheriff’s office in southeast Queens last month.

The Sheriff’s Joint Compliance Task Force conducted four tobacco inspections on unlicensed locations within the confines of the 105th Precinct.

The operations were found to be selling untaxed cannabis, THC edibles, cigarettes, flavored tobacco, flavored vapes,and other tobacco products near schools or houses of worship. The inspections resulted in five arrests, 14 Notices of Violations (NOVs) with 61 violations and one C-Summons, totaling an estimated $241,000 in penalties, according to the sheriff’s office. More than 50 pounds of THC flower and nearly 30 pounds of THC edible products were seized during the raids.

“I’d like to commend the 105th Precinct and the Sheriff’s Joint Compliance Task Force for their successful efforts in cracking down on illegal smoke shops in my district,” Williams said. “Such operations are essential in protecting the health and safety of the community and ensuring that businesses operate legally and with proper licenses.”

Raids were conducted at Merrick Gifts and Candy Corp located at 234-26 Merrick Blvd. (.2 miles from PS 270), where the operators were arrested and charged with criminal possession of cannabis; 216 Exotic Corp., located at 216-13 Jamaica Avenue (276 feet from New Greater Bethel Ministries); Springfield Candy & Convenience Incorporated, located at 216-17 Merrick Blvd. (.2 miles from Success Academy Middle School), where the operator was arrested and charged with criminal possession of cannabis; and Smokez R’ Us, located at 248-49 Jericho Tpke. (.2 miles from St. Gregory Catholic Church), where the manager was arrested and charged with criminal possession of cannabis.

Mayor Eric Adams announced in November that the NYC Sheriff’s office would be at the vanguard of the task force targeting smoke shops and tobacco retailers using inspections to combat the proliferation of the unlicensed and unregulated sale of cannabis. As a result, the sheriff’s office is collaborating with other city agencies to ensure that these rolling inspections are conducted across the five boroughs on a daily basis.

“We will continue in our efforts to enforce the mayor’s vision of a safe and healthy city by enforcing the rules and regulations mandating the sales and licensing of cannabis products,” NYC Sheriff Anthony Miranda said.

Adams appointed Miranda as the city’s 123rd sheriff nearly one year ago. The Flushing resident is a familiar figure in Queens after he campaigned for Queens borough president and the City Council in recent years. The former NYPD sergeant and first responder during the 9/11 terrorist attacks was a co-founder and executive chairman of the National Latino Officers Association.

Miranda said he will continue to lead the mayor’s vision of a “comprehensive team response” to the very serious public health and safety issues presented by smoke shops engaged in illegal activity.

“The sheriff’s office will continue to explore more partnerships and collaboration with other city, state, and federal agencies to help protect New Yorkers,” Miranda said after recent joint operations in Manhattan, where he had a warning for property owners who rent space to illicit smoke shop operators. “Landlords are now on notice and can no longer turn a blind eye. Choosing profit over public health and public safety is no longer an option.”