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Rogue NYC pot shops open a week after raids — with one still selling marijuana

A pair of illegal pot shops busted by the NYPD just last week have reopened — with one worker boasting about the brazen move to The Post on Tuesday while touting his store’s illicit wares.

“We were closed the day it happened. We reopened the next day, back in business,” said the employee at Gas City Exotics in Queens.

Beneath the shop’s glass countertop and openly on display were rows of joints, edibles and other marijuana paraphernalia, all easily visible through the storefront’s windows.

Gas City Exotics in Middle Village, Queens, was busted for selling weed illegally March 4 and is now open and selling again. Michael Nagle
Gas City Exotics in Middle Village, Queens, was busted for selling weed illegally March 4 and is now open and selling again. Michael Nagle

“[The products] are right there for everybody to see. It’s not really a secret,” the worker said.

Gas City was busted March 4 by the NYPD’s “cannabis cops” task force, as was the Metro King Deli just steps away down the Middle Village block.

As with Gas City, Metro King Deli was open when The Post visited Tuesday, but no weed was seen to be on sale.

Both shops were temporarily shuttered after cops seized pounds of marijuana and cannabis products, which they were selling without a license — just two of the roughly 2,000 rogue pot shops estimated to be operating throughout the city.

Though weed shops appear to be on every other corner in the Big Apple, there are just 35 across the five boroughs that have been properly licensed by the state to operate.

That means most shops on the street are selling unregulated and untested weed, cutting into the business of honest sellers who have followed the proper steps to join the burgeoning market.

Vials of marijuana openly — and illegally — for sale at Gas City Exotics are “no secret,” a worker says. Michael Nagle
Vials of marijuana openly — and illegally — for sale at Gas City Exotics are “no secret,” a worker says. Michael Nagle

“We’re $1 million into this,” said Osbert Orduna, the co-owner of The Cannabis Place, a shop legally opening with a license Saturday in a stunning renovated bank just around the corner from Gas City and Metro King.

While Orduna has poured money into his business and weathered the process of becoming licensed with the state, he said there are at least six illegal pot shops flouting the rules and operating within a one-block radius of his shop.

“I was shocked and appalled to see the brazenness and the complete disregard for not only the law and regulations but also for the community,” Orduna said. “They pretend like these storefronts are legal, and they got raided, and they just restocked the shelves and opened the next day.

NYPD officers raided Metro King Deli for illegal marijuana sales last week.
NYPD officers raided Metro King Deli for illegal marijuana sales last week.

“They really try to pass themselves off like it’s business as usual — ‘Oh, we’re a normal establishment. The sheriff was here yesterday, seized a bunch of stuff, don’t worry about it, just come back in. It’s all good.’ And it’s not,” he said.

“This where the legislature needs to act and change the power of municipalities to padlock these places once and for all,” Orduna added.

Since the sale of weed was legalized in New York in 2021, the slow rollout of the cannabis business in the state has come with vague enforcement laws that are supposed to fine stores between $10,000 and $20,000 per day if they continue to sell without a license after being busted.

Metro King Deli did not appear to be selling marijuana Tuesday but did have a window full of smoking paraphernalia. Michael Nagle
Metro King Deli did not appear to be selling marijuana Tuesday but did have a window full of smoking paraphernalia. Michael Nagle

But the laws have lacked teeth to permanently shut down offenders — only one illegal shop permanently padlocked over repeat offenses — and lawmakers feel powerless to intervene.

“The enforcement is a total farce. This is a mockery of the justice system,” said City Councilman Bob Holden, who represents Middle Village and was present for the raids last week.

“We should have had a padlock law in place,” he said. “The state lawmakers who approve the marijuana law should be voted out of office for failing to address enforcement of the black market.

Local lawmakers are concerned about weed products marketed like candy or sweets. Michael Nagle
Local lawmakers are concerned about weed products marketed like candy or sweets. Michael Nagle

“This is happening in my wonderful neighborhood and we can’t do anything about it. Outrageous.”

Holden said he also is concerned about edibles resembling candy being sold out of the shops.

“The cannabis edibles look like candy and are being marketed to kids,” the councilman said.


City Hall referred to recent comments made by Mayor Eric Adams about the need for a tougher state law that would make it easier to padlock illicit pot shops, which Gov. Kathy Hochul has proposed

“It’s not enough to support the opening of new legal cannabis shops — we must also close down the illegal operators that threaten the success of legal shops and put the safety of our communities at risk. We have been clear in our call to state lawmakers to give us the power to shut down illegal smoke shops, and we will continue to work with Governor Hochul and all our partners in Albany who are fighting to give us this authority,” Adams said.

In the meantime. the mayor’s cannabis enforcement task force includes Sheriff Anthony Miranda has imposed nearly $90 million in penalties— including an estimated $29 million in illegal product seized and more than  $61 million in civil fines issued.

The city has also sent letters to 408 landlords across the five boroughs warning that they could be legally liable for the continued unlicensed sale of cannabis or tobacco products by their tenants. Some landlords have moved to evict the unlicensed pot peddlers.