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Queens lawmaker helps NYPD shut down Richmond Hill smoke shop, shares concerns over incoming Middle Village dispensary

Jul. 5, 2023 By Anthony Medina

The smoke shop in Richmond Hill where a 20-year-old employee was shot and killed during an armed robbery in March was shut down twice in one month, the office of Senator Joseph P. Addabbo Jr. announced Friday, June 30.

The Plug Smoke Shop, located at 109-27 Jamaica Ave., was closed through an issued court order given on Wednesday, June 7, thanks to the combined effort from Addabbo and the NYPD 102nd Precinct, his office revealed. The shop was allegedly found illegally selling cannabis and marijuana-related products.

The exterior of The Plug Smoke Shop on Jamaica Avenue in Richmond Hill, with a court order to remain closed. Photo courtesy the office of Senator Joseph P. Addabbo Jr.

After attending a Richmond Hill Block Association meeting on Wednesday, June 28, Addabbo said he learned the smoke shop was operating again despite the court order. He said once again, with the NYPD’s 102nd Precinct, the shop’s shutters were closed for good and the owner was arrested. A police spokesperson could not immediately provide details of the arrest to QNS.

A court order posted on The Plug Smoke Shop shutters shows neighbors the shop is officially closed. Photo courtesy the office of Senator Joseph P. Addabbo Jr.

“These illegal pot sellers have no business in our community, and it takes a team effort to address this pervasive problem,” Addabbo said. “The Plug Smoke Shop was not only operating illegally, but a fatal shooting also took place there this year. It needed to go, and now thanks to our diligent efforts, hopefully, it’s gone for good. I remain diligent and optimistic that with the credible efforts of the NYPD and community residents, other illegal pot shops can experience the same fate and be closed forever.”

Addabbo says he’s staying on top of the scourge of illegal pot shops in the district with a dedicated team member specializing in addressing this issue, but he’s also facing concerns over a proposed legal dispensary in Middle Village.

The site of the proposed location for The Cannabis Place on 74-03 Metropolitan Ave., in Middle Village.Photo courtesy Google Maps

The Cannabis Place, currently operating as a fully licensed cannabis delivery service for Brooklyn, Manhattan, Queens, Nassau, and Suffolk Counties, plans to open its dispensary on 74-03 Metropolitan Avenue, in Middle Village.

The Cannabis Place, under the business name Social Equity Caurd JV LLC, sought the approval of Queens Community Board 5 during last month’s board meeting and was met with stark skepticism.

Senator Joseph P. Addabbo Jr., addresses members of Community Board 5 in June, on the issues with smoke shops, both legal and illegal, citing his decision to vote no to the Marijuana Regulation and Taxation Act.Photo by Anthony Medina

“I think the community is correct in questioning, and being concerned with the siting of that Metropolitan Avenue site, and should it open, then we’re gonna have to address every issue that comes along with it,” Addabbo told QNS in an earlier interview. “And it puts an additional burden certainly on the 104th Precinct, but the bottom line is, it’s gonna have to be a collective effort with the community, elected officials, law enforcement, and OCM to make sure that the community is not negatively impacted by that business.”

According to the New York State Office of Cannabis Management, a licensed Conditional Adult-Use Retail Dispensary (CAURD) business must submit a location to be surveyed before opening shop. The OCM then accesses the location, including whether there is a school or school grounds on the same road and within 500 feet.

One school, Positive Beginnings Inc II, a special education preschool located on 72-52 Metropolitan Ave, is 495 feet from the proposed dispensary, according to Google Maps. Addabbo also pointed to a nearby Taekwondo school.

Councilman Robert Holden is also aware of the dispensary’s plan to open.

“My primary focus remains cracking down on illicit pot shops, and I am committed to continuing these efforts. I firmly believe in preserving our community’s quality of life and I will persist in enforcing the laws to combat illegal operations,” Holden said in an emailed statement to QNS.

Addabbo was one of the few elects who choose to vote “no” on the Marijuana Regulation and Taxation Act, which legalized adult-use cannabis in 2021. The senator made clear he’s not against medicinal marijuana and its benefits, but rather the lack of attention to the surge in smoke shops operating illegally across the city.

“Whether you’re for the legal shops and you voted for the bill, or you’re just promoting and you are advocating for “yes, there should be recreational marijuana,” or whether you’re against it — pro or con, you still have to be concerned of the ramifications when a site opens up that’s located within a community that is populated with younger residents and amongst other stores. You have to be,” Addabbo said.

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