BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) — Officials in Erie County are looking to have legal pot shops in Buffalo open by the end of June and will begin enforcing illegal shops that have popped up in the area.

In March, New York State’s Office of Cannabis Management allowed for dispensary licenses to be distributed. Multiple licenses to individuals and companies were given out in Western New York. One pot shop opened on the Seneca Nation last month, but since then no other legal locations have opened in the area outside of the Seneca Nation.

However, several illegal locations have opened in that time.

Rep. Crystal Peoples-Stokes (D), the majority leader of the New York State Assembly, is hoping to have legal ones opened within the next two months.

“It’s a huge investment. I’m not sure that everybody has a site already chosen and already set up to be a store,” Rep. Peoples-Stokes said. “And their background stuff in order, I think they will start to get that in order, and I would say by the end of June we should see some stores opening.”

On top of getting the legal ones open, part of the strategy of the state is enforcing the rules and cracking down on the illegal shops.

“They’re critical, because it will be the illicit market that will hamper the plan and the strategy for the implementation of legal adult use,” she said. “They all have to be shut down and I believe they will. It’s going to take a concerted effort, not just with the State of New York and Office of Cannabis Management and the tax department for the state, but it’s also going to take a concerted effort from local governments.”

Peoples-Stokes says that this is about investing in communities that have been overlooked in the past.

“You could see the lack of investment in those communities because they all look the same, whether they’re in Utica, or Buffalo, or in the Bronx,” she said. “This legislation allows us to not only legalize a new industry, but allows us the opportunity to create opportunities for people to be in the business to create generational wealth.”

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Aidan Joly joined the News 4 staff in 2022. He is a graduate of Canisius College. You can see more of his work here.