Police descended upon over a dozen weed trucks in the Times Square area of New York City Tuesday in the latest weed truck crackdown in the city. But some locals say there are more serious crimes that should be the focus of police.
It is the backlash in response to what locals are calling an “open-air drug market” caused by unlicensed weed sellers in trucks. None of the trucks have permits to operate, as licensing has not yet become available, however retail licenses become available within a week on August 25.
The New York Police Department (NYPD) is fed up with the torrent of illegal cannabis trucks easily found on New York City streets. Many locals agree.
New York Daily News reports that one of the most prolific truck chains, “Weed World,” which sold mostly edibles, was forced to pay over $200,000 in parking fines and about a dozen of the chain’s trucks were cleared off the streets.
“If you are looking to buy illegal cannabis from the Weed World Bus located on 5th Avenue & 40th street it is no longer open for business,” NYPD Chief of Patrol Jeffrey Maddrey tweeted about the seizures. “We do not anticipate it opening for business anytime soon!”
Tom Harris, president of the Times Square Alliance, said that on any given day, there are about half a dozen weed trucks parked in the direct vicinity of Times Square. The responses on Twitter, however, were far from reaching a consensus.
Weed World said on August 15 that it paid $200,000 of the $500,000 in owed parking fines, and had worked out an installment plan with the city’s Department of Finance. Last June, law enforcement towed away 12 Weed World trucks and declined to release the trucks until the fines were paid. Weed World also operated a brick-and-mortar store nearby, just up Seventh Ave, and plans on getting a permit once they become available after gaining the attention of New York’s Cannabis Control Board.
In the latest sweep, the NYPD posted footage of 19 vehicles seized off city streets for allegedly selling cannabis products without permits.
The NYPD and other officials aren’t only going after weed trucks. State officials recently slapped 17 storefront cannabis operations (and trucks) with cease and desist letters for allegedly selling cannabis without a license, including Weed World on Seventh Ave. “There are no businesses currently licensed to sell adult-use cannabis in New York State, “Tremaine Wright, chair of New York’s Cannabis Control Board, said in a statement.
New York officials will begin accepting retail cannabis licenses on August 25, the Office of Cannabis Management announced. License applications will be accepted for a month after an online portal opens.
Bigger Fish to Fry
To be fair—cannabis isn’t Times Square’s only problem, and weed trucks might be the least of their problems. Last year, police shut down a “24-hour open air bazaar” that sold crack cocaine. That business operated without anyone batting an eye for two years. In that instance, a crew worked “round-the-clock shifts” at 43rd Street and Eighth Avenue, according to the NYPD and federal authorities.
The operation was open 24/7 and launched in December 2019, in perhaps one of the only places in America that you could get away with it that long. Police called it “Operation Ghostbuster.”
The city is also focusing on safe injection sites with personnel to supervise. The New York Times reports that on the first day of operation of one site—crew members were able to reverse two overdoses.
In the meantime, New York City Mayor told New Yorkers to “light up”—that is, until licensing begins and the market matures.
Benjamin M. Adams is Staff Writer at High Times, and has written for Vice, Forbes, HuffPost, The Advocate, Culture, and many other publications. He holds a Bachelor of Communication from Southern New Hampshire University.