An effort to address the unlicensed selling of cannabis in New York launched on Thursday following an agreement in last month's state budget to address an issue officials have blamed on stifling the legal cannabis marketplace in the state. 

Gov. Kathy Hochul's office announced the multi-agency effort that will include enforcement officers from the Office of Cannabis Management and the Department of Taxation and Finance to begin inspections of storefront businesses that are not licensed to sell cannabis in New York. 

Inspectors will issue violations and orders to cease unlicensed activity when needed, Hochul's office said.  

"New York is proud to have undertaken the most equitable legal cannabis roll-out in the nation and the State will not stand idle as unlicensed operators break the law and sell untested products to underage New Yorkers," Gov. Hochul said. "These enforcement actions are critical steps to protect and help those individuals who were promised a shot to start a legal business and be successful. Additionally, these unlicensed operators undermine the State's efforts to generate substantial funds for a social equity fund that will go into the communities that have been hardest hit by over-prosecution of the cannabis laws in the past."

Lawmakers and Hochul in May agreed to provisions meant to curtail illegal cannabis sales with a focus on civil, rather than criminal penalties. Cannabis regulators can assess civil penalties on businesses with fines of up to $20,000 a day. 

A new law also created a tax fraud charge for businesses that are failing to collect or remit required cannabis taxes. 

"The successful enforcement actions against unlicensed storefronts and trucks selling cannabis in New York City serves as a clear message that New York State is serious about curtailing the operations of illicit enterprises," said Tremaine Wright, the chair of the state Cannabis Control Board. "By enforcing the law, empowered by new legislation, we are safeguarding public safety and the integrity of the legal cannabis market. Our mission is to create a fair and regulated environment that supports licensed businesses and protects consumers."