Owner Of Unlicensed Manhattan Weed Shops To Pay More Than $400,000 In Plea Deal

In a deal with the Manhattan District Attorney’s office, Rami Alzandani (the owner of ten unlicensed weed shops in Manhattan, not to mention one in Queens) agreed to a non-prosecution agreement that requires him to pay $103,000 in restitution fees and forfeit an additional $300,000 in illegal sales.

| 22 Jul 2023 | 02:11

The owner of nearly a dozen unlicensed cannabis shops around Manhattan is required to pay more than $400,000 to the New York State Department of Tax and Finance.

In a deal with the Manhattan District Attorney’s office, Rami Alzandani agreed to a non-prosecution agreement which requires him to pay $103,000 in restitution fees and forfeit an additional $300,000 in illegal sales.

Alzandani is the owner of 11 unlicensed cannabis stores, 10 of which are scattered throughout Manhattan. Four of his stores–Jacks Convenience, On The Rocks, West Coast Convenience, and Jeeters Convenience–pled guilty to one count of Criminal Possession of Cannabis in the Second Degree, but received a conditional discharge and a fine of $5,000 each. Alzandani will still be allowed to operate the locations if he doesn’t sell cannabis products and submits to random inspections for the next three years.

Additionally, Alzandani’s stores must submit a written certification affirming they are not selling cannabis every three months.

In a statement on the non-prosecution agreement, Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg noted that “cannabis legalization in New York State was designed to advance racial equity and fairness, and the rules must be followed.”

“Public safety is also harmed when there is such a huge proliferation of unlicensed and unregulated storefronts selling cannabis products that have not been properly inspected,” Bragg added.

Gale Brewer, the Council Member for NYC’s District 6–which spans Central Park, the UWS, Lincoln Square, and Hell’s Kitchen–hailed the DA’s announcement.

“Today there are fewer illegal cannabis shops on the Upper West Side thanks to DA Bragg,” Brewer said. “I believe we are seeing a turning point when it comes to illegal shops, and this investigation shows something we have suspected all along, which is common ownership of multiple unlicensed stores.”

The plea deal was announced as part of a investigatory sweep conducted by the DA’s office, which has an initial dragnet of 50 stores. It is also apparently intended to engage landlords that host unlicensed shops, with the hope that evictions may follow. Other outcomes of the sweep in Manhattan include: Milky Way Exotics getting evicted from 606 9th Ave., as well as Bavaro Smoke Shop & Fifth Avenue Convenience Corp. (664 West 181st St. and 381 Fifth Ave.) receiving notices of termination from their landlords.

Recreational marijuana use has been legal in New York State since March 31st, 2021, when then-Governor Andrew Cuomo signed the Marihuana Regulation and Taxation Act. However, according to the Office of Cannabis Management’s Dispensary Location Verification database, there are only five officially licensed dispensaries in the borough of Manhattan.

Eligible certifications rolled out by the OCM over the course of the law include the Adult-Use Conditional Cultivator license, the Adult-Use Conditional Processor license, and the Conditional Adult-Use Retail Dispensary (CAURD) license. Governor Kathy Hochul introduced the Cultivator and Processor licenses in 2022. They have unique packaging, labeling, and even fingerprinting requirements, not to mention non-refundable $2,000 application fees.