NY judge imposes $15 million fine on unlicensed cannabis shops owner who says he gave free samples

LYONS, N.Y. — The owner of seven unlicensed cannabis stores in New York, whose promotions included an Easter egg hunt, has been fined more than $15 million after government officials complained that he repeatedly ignored notices to stop operating without permission, authorities said .

A Superior Court judge in Lyon, New York, imposed the fine on David Tulley on Wednesday. Acting Judge Richard Healy punished Tulley with 90% of his gross sales from February 2022 to May 2023, as well as $10,000 for each day he operated without a license.

“This penalty should serve as a clear warning to all unlicensed cannabis stores in the state: we will enforce the law and shut down your operations,” Attorney General Letitia James said in a statement, adding that Tulley was also charged with illegally selling cannabis. products to underage customers.

Tulley owned the “I’m Stuck” and “Weed Warehouse” businesses in Cayuga, Oswego and Wayne counties in western New York. He and his attorney did not immediately return text and phone messages seeking comment Thursday.

Tulley told The Associated Press last year that his stores did not need state licenses because they only offered advice and education about cannabis products for a fee and provided free samples. He also denied selling products to minors.

“We are ready to go to war with New York State,” he said at the time.

New York has had trouble cracking down on the thousands of unlicensed retailers that have cropped up after legal sales began in the state in late 2022. The problem has been especially pronounced in New York City, where unlicensed retailers have operated with impunity, often from glittering storefronts.

State officials closed Tulley’s stores last July.

In April 2023, his stores advertised Easter egg hunts in public places, including playgrounds and churches, authorities said. The eggs can be exchanged for cannabis products and children’s toys, officials said. A state investigator exchanged numerous eggs for cannabis flowers, edibles, cannabis seeds and other products at one of Tulley’s stores in Macedonia, authorities said.