ALBANY, N.Y. (WROC) — The New York State Office of Cannabis Management (OCM) sent letters Tuesday ordering businesses suspected of illegally selling cannabis, including the practice of “gifting” to stop or risk the opportunity to get a license in the legal market.

Some business operators have reportedly been selling a product or service providing cannabis as a “gift” in return. Officials say this is illegal and the OCM has identified more than two dozen alleged violators.

In addition to risk losing a potential license in the future legal market, officials from the OCM say businesses participating in the selling or gifting or marijuana illegally may also face substantial fines and possible criminal penalties.

“We have an obligation to protect New Yorkers from known risks and to strengthen the foundation of the legal, regulated market we are building.  We will meet the goals of the MRTA to build an inclusive, equitable and safe industry,” said Cannabis Control Board Chair Tremaine Wright. “Therefore, these violators must stop their activity immediately, or face the consequences.”

“We want to make sure these operators fully understand the law and the consequences they face and now that these letters have been sent, we fully expect them to cease and desist their activities – if they don’t, we will take action,” said OCM Executive Director Chris Alexander. “New York State is building a legal, regulated cannabis market that will ensure products are tested and safe for consumers while providing opportunities for those from communities most impacted by the over criminalization of the cannabis prohibition, and illegal operations undermine our ability to do that. We encourage New Yorkers to not partake in illicit sales where products may not be safe and we will continue to work to ensure that New Yorkers have a pathway to sell legally in the new industry.”

Cannabis became legal in New York last year under the Marijuana Regulation and Taxation Act (MRTA), but no adult-use licenses have been issued yet.

Currently, the only way to acquire marijuana legally in New York is through a medicinal program, which recently expanded eligibility and has set up a new cannabis certification and registration system. The program will now allow a patient to get certified for medical marijuana by a practitioner for any condition they see fit.

Not only will more patients be allowed to be prescribed marijuana, but more practitioners including dentists, podiatrist, and midwives will be able to prescribe it.