ALBANY, N.Y. (WTEN) — Lawmakers are looking at a bill that would penalize stores selling cannabis illegally, also known as sticker stores. These sales began once cannabis became decriminalized in 2021. Sticker stores are unlicensed illicit cannabis stores operating out of store fronts.

Daniel Haughney, Director of Investigations and Enforcement at The Office of Cannabis management explained, “They will have a customer come in and for instance pay $50 for a sticker of nominal value… and then they will “donate” $50 worth of cannabis to the individual. They’re basically trying to act like it’s not an actual sale of cannabis, and that you’re buying the sticker, but also and getting a donation.”

Haughney said this is illegal and investigations into these stores are ongoing. OCM said these shops are taking away from the legitimate industry being built in New York. “Our industry is based on equity, education, and making sure that where there are legal licensed sales of cannabis, the tax money that is generated from the sales is getting reinvested in the communities where the shops are located,” said Haughney.

Additionally, the products these shops are selling are not lab tested and have been found to have ecoli and salmonella. “New York State has some of the most strict testing requirements for cannabis that will be on the retail shelves, in license locations. These illicit un-licensed locations that are operating as sticker shops are dealing cannabis that has not been tested too, are strict regulations,” he said.

Haughny said the sticker shops sell cannabis with packaging that includes cartoons, use trade names of candy bars or appeal to children, which OCM has specifically prohibited from their marketing regulations. The sign of a legally operating cannabis store will always include a QR code. “Where basically anyone from the public can go up with her phone, scan the QR code, and it will refer back to our cannabis website, and it will verify that the location that you’re at is a licensed legal dispensary,” he explained. Legislation has been proposed to charge these chops criminally and civilly. Any penalties collected by OCM would go to the county where the violation took place.