New York battles illegal weed dispensaries as legal shops remain elusive

August 1, 2023 Rob Abruzzese
New York Gov. Kathy Hochul
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More than two years have passed since New York legalized marijuana for adult use, and yet Brooklynites still find themselves without a legal outlet to buy cannabis. Despite this, Gov. Kathy Hochul is focusing her efforts on cracking down on those trying to fill the void left by government inaction.

In a major joint operation, Attorney General Letitia James, Hochul and the Office of Cannabis Management (OCM) have closed down seven unlicensed cannabis dispensaries operating in Cayuga, Oswego and Wayne counties. The stores, part of the “I’m Stuck” chain owned by David Tulley, were also found to be illegally selling cannabis to underage customers.

This crackdown comes under the new enforcement powers granted to the attorney general by legislation signed into law by Hochul as part of the FY24 Enacted Budget. Tulley’s stores are the first illegal cannabis outlets to be shut down under the new state law.

The “I’m Stuck” chain, with eight locations across several counties, had been processing and packaging cannabis products without the necessary OCM authorization. This lapse not only resulted in illicit sales but also created a significant health risk for consumers. Investigators from the Attorney General’s Office observed store clerks selling cannabis products to underage customers on multiple occasions. Tulley’s failure to heed OCM orders and repeated notices to cease operations has led to this action.

In a statement, Attorney General James highlighted the importance of adhering to cannabis laws in ensuring the safety of cannabis products and keeping them out of the hands of minors.

Hochul emphasized the need to crack down on illegal operators who undermine law-abiding entrepreneurs and consumers.

Despite the warnings and the legal consequences, Tulley has continued to operate his stores, even misleadingly describing his businesses as a “consulting” service. However, undercover investigators revealed a different picture, with thousands of dollars worth of cannabis products sold across multiple locations.

Further investigation uncovered an alarming trend: underage customers were able to purchase cannabis products at the “I’m Stuck” stores. Even an Easter egg hunt event organized by Tulley’s stores in April 2023 turned into a promotion for cannabis products.

The blatant disregard of New York’s cannabis laws did not stop at the sale of unregulated cannabis products. Store clerks informed undercover investigators that taxes were not included in the price of the products.

As a result of this investigation, the OCM and Attorney General James are seeking millions of dollars in penalties from Tulley, his companies and the owners of the buildings where his stores are located. This action underscores the growing tension between the government’s slow rollout of legal cannabis and those trying to profit from the void.

Despite the evident urgency to establish a legal market for adult-use cannabis, Brooklynites and other New Yorkers are still left waiting. As illicit sales persist, revenue meant for community investment remains untapped, and the promise of a regulated cannabis market hangs in the balance.

In the interim, consumers are forced to navigate a shadowy market, risking exposure to potentially unsafe products. For now, Brooklynites and many others across the state must continue to wait for legal access to cannabis.

 


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