Queens elected officials address spread of illegal smoke shops in their districts

Council Member Selvena Brooks-Powers is thanking the NYC Sheriff’s Office for its recent raid on an illegal smoke shop in Jamaica.
File photo by Dean Moses

Two Queens lawmakers are speaking out about the proliferation of illegal smoke shops in their districts.

Council Member Selvena Brooks-Powers and Assemblymember Stacey Pheffer Amato address concerns on unregulated cannabis shops in Southeast Queens.

File photo by Lloyd Mitchell

Brooks-Powers thanked the Adams administration and the NYC Sheriff’s Office for its ongoing initiative against illegal smoke shops in order to improve public safety. 

“I commend the administration for this latest effort to discourage unregulated smoke shops from operating across the city,” Brooks-Power said. “I’ve spent time talking to students, community members, and business owners across the 31st Council district and they all share similar stories about the dangers and disruptions these shops pose on their daily lives.”

Brooks-Powers highlighted a raid last month in which the Sheriff’s Office conducted an inspection at Ace Exotics NY Inc., located at 244-10 Francis Lewis Blvd. in Jamaica. The inspection led to the arrest of the operator who was charged with criminal possession of cannabis and unlawful possession of cannabis.

The store closure was part of a larger coordinated effort in her district that led to two more arrests and containing 40 violations and 223 counts, Brooks-Powers said, adding that the financial impacts of the violations resulted in an eye-popping $236,175 in penalties. The seized contraband items included 906 packages of THC flower weighing a total of 23.53 lbs., 1,8885 THC pre-rolls weighing a total of 4.54 lbs., 485 packages of THC edibles weighing a total of 51.05 lbs., 5.3 cartons of untaxed cigarettes, 5,900 packages of other illicit tobacco products and 1,926 flavored vape products.

“Without regulation and oversight, it is impossible to decriminalize marijuana safely and equitably in the city,” Brooks-Powers said. “I fully support the Sheriff’s office and the administration to hold business owners accountable to those agreements for the sake of the broader community.”

Meanwhile, Pheffer Amato fired off a letter to the Office on Cannabis Management (OCM) where she vehemently opposed the proposed opening of a legal cannabis dispensary in Howard Beach. Pheffer Amato, who voted “no” to legalize marijuana, detailed her own objection, but also the concerns of her constituents that the Cross Bay Boulevard location would be in close proximity to P.S. 207, the Howard Beach Library and a public bus stop which is utilized by children and seniors.

Assemblymember Stacey Pheffer Amato penned a letter to the Office of Cannabis Management (OCM) objecting to the proposed location of a cannabis dispensary near a school on Cross Bay Boulevard. File photo by Lloyd Mitchell

“I am appalled by the possibility of opening a dispensary at this location,” Pheffer Amato wrote.

“This community has made its voice loud and clear, and firmly objects to the opening of this dispensary. I ask that OCM listen and respect our community’s thoughts as our Community Board voted against this too.”

She also outlined her original objections saying “there is still no method to measure the impairment level of a driver after smoking or ingesting marijuana. In addition, the motor vehicle laws have not been properly updated to address driving while ‘high,’ nor have the complaints and concerns regarding quality of life issues that stem from illegal stores been resolved by OCM.”

Pheffer Amato is the prime co-sponsor of A.174, a legislation that seeks to amend New York’s laws regarding driving while impaired by drugs and she continues to work with the NYC Sheriff’s Office on illegal cannabis shops in her district with regards to imposing stiff fines and confiscating illicit substances.