Are Social Media Giants Like Google & Meta Helping Illicit Pot Shops In New York? Some Cannabis Advocates Say Yes – Alphabet (NASDAQ:GOOG), Meta Platforms (NASDAQ:META)

The owners of legal cannabis shops in New York are asking authorities to look into social media companies and tech giants they claim are making it possible for their unlicensed competitors to promote their illicit businesses.

To that end, they’re calling on Gov. Kathy Hochul to take action against companies such as Google GOOG and Meta NASDAQ: META), to name a few, and then potentially file a lawsuit, reported the New York Post.

Osbert Orduna, behind the Service Disabled Veterans in Cannabis Association, pointed out that social media companies “track every click that goes on their site,” and that “it would be disingenuous for them to say they don’t know what’s going on.”

The trend is recognized by other market stakeholders and cannabis advocates as well.

Orduna’s partner in the effort, Jayson Tantalo, the New York Cannabis Retail Association’s co-founder and VP of operations said they are in the process of spreading the word about the growing concern. They are collecting signatures for a letter to Hochul in which tech giants are described as being “complicit” and therefore working against New York laws.

See also: As Twitter Moves Forward With Cannabis Advertising, Meta Really Should Get With The Program

“These companies must be held accountable for their part in enabling illicit cannabis activity and failing to uphold the standards necessary to protect New York consumers and uphold the law,” the draft letter said. 

New York Post’s Carl Campanile said a Google and Google Maps for “cannabis dispensaries near me” turned up cannabis businesses that operate without licenses. The same for Yelp reviews, Campanile said.

NY Vs. Illegal Pot Shops

A total of 75 businesses in New York are running licensed cannabis operations. New York cannabis regulators recently approved over 100 new marijuana licenses for retailers, microbusinesses, cultivators, processors and distributors as well as draft rules for home cannabis cultivation.

Meanwhile, thousands of unlicensed cannabis shops continue to operate openly, despite stepped-up enforcement efforts.

New York indeed has an aggressive stance on the issue, which is led by the Office of Cannabis Management (OCM) and the Department of Taxation and Finance. The OCM intends to strengthen the legal cannabis market by penalizing unauthorized sellers. In 2023, the agencies were given greater authority – a move that resulted in joint raids on shops.

However, even though the state has imposed more than $25 million in fines since 2023, it has barely recouped any of them. The OCM has collected only $22,500 and the Tax Department is yet to see any fines paid.

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