Earlier this month, the Los Angeles Times ran an expose on several illegal dispensaries operating in southern California. The article highlighted a series of unauthorized dispensaries, all of which were run in structures owned by holding companies overseen by Tony Huang. Huang is the founder and co-owner of the massive California cannabis chain Stiizy, which runs 30 retail centers throughout California that sell cannabis, clothes, and accessories.
Huang is now threatening to sue the Los Angeles Times for defamation. His spokesperson claims that Huang knew nothing of the illegal dispensaries and that the article will damage the reputation of both Stiizy and Huang. Additionally, Huang’s lawyer has now sent a cease-and-desist letter to the Los Angeles Times.
Illegal Dispensaries are Rampant in California
Illegal dispensaries are a problem for authorities throughout California, despite the years-long legalization of recreational and medicinal marijuana. These black market facilities often run cash-only businesses to dodge cannabis taxes, regulations, and fees, and many of them sell products that are not up to the standards of legitimate dispensaries.
Authorities have raided and uncovered nine separate illegal dispensaries over the last couple of years, all of them run out of buildings owned directly or indirectly by Huang. Huang’s spokesperson stated that, upon finding out about the black market businesses, Huang attempted to evict the tenants and sell the properties if eviction failed. However, authorities and the Los Angeles Times reporters discovered various potential connections between Huang and the illegal cannabis markets.
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Past charges accused Huang of operating an unlicensed cannabis store, but he has since expunged them and reduced them from felonies to misdemeanors.
What Comes Next for Stiizy?
Huang’s spokesperson said that Huang will cooperate with authorities to prove his innocence, but this process may take some time. He holds eight legitimate licenses to sell cannabis products in California under the Stiizy name, and as of yet, no one has challenged or revoked them.
Several people are facing charges and fines ranging from a few thousand dollars to several million for their part in running the illegal dispensaries, although more than one of them has claimed that they knew nothing of the illicit operations or who owned them. The black market shops have all been shut down as of writing this. Interestingly enough, one of the buildings that formerly hosted an illicit dispensary is now a Stiizy-branded shop.
They sold or abandoned the rest of the buildings, leaving their futures uncertain. Only time will tell how the rest of the Stiizy store will play out from here.
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