CAZENOVIA — On Jan. 24, Chief of Police Michael Hayes reported that the Village of Cazenovia Police Department’s investigation into the sale of illegal THC products at Happy Mart convenience store at 63 Albany St. has been reopened because some aspects of the case are still being pursued. The department originally closed the case on Saturday, Jan. 7.
On Oct. 13, 2022, a search warrant was executed on Happy Mart following a three-week-long investigation into the sale of illegal THC products.
The search warrant was issued by Village Justice D. Christian Fischer and executed by the Cazenovia Police Department.
In an Oct. 13 press release, the department said it had received information that “look-alike products” were being sold at the store.
Hayes explained that such products look like familiar food items, such as gummies, candies, and cookies, but contain THC. For example, the THC- containing “Trips Ahoy!” cookies closely resemble the “Chips Ahoy!” brand.
Happy Mart has not been issued a license by New York State to sell cannabis products. Further, the Village of Cazenovia Board of Trustees voted on July 1, 2021, to opt out of licensing and establishing cannabis retail dispensaries and cannabis on-site consumption establishments within its boundaries.
At the time the search warrant was executed, the state had not yet issued any adult-use retail dispensary licenses.
“As we’ve said, there are currently no legal sales of adult-use cannabis in New York State, and any storefront that jumps ahead of the process will be shut down and risk losing the opportunity to operate in the legal industry,” said Daniel Haughney, director of investigations/enforcement for the New York State Office of Cannabis Management, in the Oct. 13 press release. “We’re thankful for our partnership with the Cazenovia Police Department, which shut down the illicit sales at this storefront. All others should be on notice: illicit sales by unlicensed stores will not be tolerated.”
Happy Mart was temporarily shut down on Oct. 13 to allow for the proper execution of the search warrant and then returned to its operators in “good working order,” Hayes said.
According to the police chief, the search yielded 1,869 THC products, including edibles, cannabis vaping products, and packaged pre-rolled blunts and joints dipped in cannabis oil for higher potency.
Later that day, Hayes reported that all the illegal THC products had been seized, pursuant to the search warrant, and would be processed and sent to the New York State Police (NYSP) Crime Laboratory for testing to determine if/what criminal charges would be filed.
In a Jan. 23, 2023 update on the situation, Hayes announced that the case had been closed earlier that month because the NYSP Crime Laboratory said it was unable to conduct the testing. Therefore, the seized items would need to be sent to a private lab at the cost of $300 per item.
“Due to the large volume of illegal products seized by the police department, that would be very cost prohibitive,” Hayes said at the time. “Those items will be destroyed in the spring.”
A day later, however, Hayes announced that the case had been reopened and that some of the illegal products would be sent to the NYSP Crime Laboratory for testing to determine if the THC percentages are high enough to warrant criminal charges.
Hayes explained that the NYSP Crime Laboratory informed the police department after the case had been closed that it will test only the products containing cannabis flower such as joints, blunts and similar items — about half of the total seized products — but it will take some time.
“That is what has allowed us to reopen the case,” Hayes said.
According to the Hayes, it could take eight months to get the results back.
The Cazenovia Police Department has been conducting its investigation into the illegal activity at Happy Mart with assistance from the Office of Cannabis Management, the New York State Liquor Authority, the Madison County Department of Health, and the Madison County District Attorney’s Office, and with support from Mayor Kurt Wheeler and the village board of trustees.
On Jan. 27, the chief said that as far as he knows no fines for the THC products had been assessed, but the penalties are up to the Office of Cannabis Management.
Additionally, Hayes said that during the Oct. 13 search for illegal THC products, police also found 1,400 illegal nicotine vaping products. Those products, which were not within the scope of the search warrant, were documented but could not be seized.
A hearing with the Madison County Department of Health as to the fines related to the illegal nicotine vaping products is scheduled for Feb. 2.
According to Hayes, the New York State Liquor Authority has revoked Happy Mart’s license to sell alcohol.
“You cannot sell illegal products and hold a license to sell alcohol,” he explained.
On Jan. 23, Wheeler said that to his knowledge Happy Mart has voluntarily ceased operations for the moment as their legal process continues.
The Cazenovia Republican reached out to the Happy Mart operators for comment on whether they have plans to reopen but was unable to make contact by press time.
“As far as I am aware, nothing prevents the operators from reopening,” said Hayes.
For more information on the Village of Cazenovia Police Department, visit villageofcazenovia.com/police/.