NY shuts down alleged unlicensed cannabis shops as owner insists they only give away free samples

New York officials shut down what they called seven unlicensed cannabis dispensaries in the western part of the state Monday, alleging the owner ignored repeated notices to stop operating without approval, sold cannabis products to underage customers and once held hunts for Easter eggs that were redeemable for pot products.

The owner of the “I’m Stuck” shops in Cayuga, Oswego and Wayne counties, David Tulley, adamantly denied selling products to minors. Tulley also told The Associated Press that his stores offer consulting and education about cannabis products for a fee and provide free samples, so they do not need state licenses.

“We’re ready to go to war with New York state and we get our day in court on Wednesday ... so we’ll be happy to talk to them,” Tulley said.

Wednesday is when Tulley has been ordered to appear in court in Wayne County as the state seeks orders to close his stores, stop him from dispensing cannabis products and make him pay fines.

The shop closures come as New York has boosted enforcement efforts in response to hundreds of bootleg pot shops that have opened since the state legalized recreational marijuana use in 2021.

New York law allows the state to impose a $10,000 penalty for each day a business sells cannabis without a license, as well as a $20,000 penalty for each day cannabis is sold after the business receives an order to stop by the state. State officials say Tulley potentially faces millions of dollars in penalties, because the state first sent him cease-and-desist orders in February 2022.

Gov. Kathy Hochul, Attorney General Letitia James and the state Office of Cannabis Management announced the closure of Tulley’s stores, citing new authority in a law approved earlier this year that allows the attorney general’s office to take cannabis law violators to court, upon request by the Office of Cannabis Management. State police helped shut down the stores — the first shops to be closed under the new state law, they said.

“It’s critical to crack down on illegal operators who are breaking the law and undermining the success of entrepreneurs and consumers who follow the rules,” Hochul said in a statement.

State officials also are seeking penalties against the owners of the buildings where Tulley’s shops are located.

Undercover investigators bought $1,000 worth of cannabis products from six “I’m Stuck” stores and said multiple shops illegally sold cannabis products to people under 21, officials said.

In April, Tulley’s stores advertised Easter egg hunts in public places including playgrounds and churches, authorities said. The eggs could be redeemed for cannabis products and children’s toys, officials said. A state investigator redeemed numerous eggs for cannabis flower, edibles, cannabis seeds and other products at one of Tulley’s stores in Macedon, authorities said.

The Office of Cannabis Management also said it seized more than 47 pounds (21 kilograms) of cannabis flower, 244 pounds (111 kilograms) of cannabis edibles and 89 pounds (40 kilograms) of cannabis concentrate during inspections of Tulley’s stores.

Tulley said his shops educate consumers about cannabis products so they can make informed purchases at licensed dispensaries. He said his shops provide free samples ranging from a cannabis gummy to one or two ounces of cannabis flower.