CHEEKTOWAGA, N.Y. (WKBW) — Boxes of "Trips Ahoy" and "Love Savers" cannabis-laced candies were among the thousands of bags of edibles and marijuana seized on Feburary 4th during a Cheektowaga Police raid of Shake N' Daze Green Vision Wellness on French Road.
Police say they executed a search warrant after an undercover detective managed to acquire cannabis products by buying a sticker and being gifted those products in return.
"Society doesn't accept this. This isn't a safe way to sell a drug, and it shouldn't be going on, so we're going to try and stop it," said Cheektowaga Police Chief Brian Gould.
Gould says the sales clerk wrote down the undercover detective's desired cannabis product on the back of a sticker, and then when it came time to check out, the clerk behind the counter slid the product into a drop-box labeled "gift."
"To me, that's a sale," said Gould.
Nicholas Hooper, 27, of Rochester, was arrested and charged with Unlawful Sale of Cannabis or Concentrated Cannabis, which is a violation.
But according to Erie County District Attorney John Flynn, the penal law does not restrict "gifting" cannabis as long as the amount is less than three ounces. He calls it a legal loophole. As a result, he is not prosecuting the sale charge, instead leaving it to a town prosecutor.
"It's clearly a scam. There's no doubt in my mind about that. The question, from my standpoint, is what am I going to do about this," said Flynn.
Flynn will, however, be prosecuting the case against David Zale, Shake N' Daze owner, who is charged with Criminal Possession of Cannabis, 1st, Criminal Possession of Cannabis, 2nd, and Possession of a Forged Instrument, 2nd. Flynn says he will take this case on because of the sheer volume of marijuana that was seized by police.
Zale's attorney, Phil Modrzynski, tells 7 News that Zale will plead not guilty when he appears in court in March.
"[Zale] believes it was an illegal seizure," said Modrzynski.
Chief Gould is committed to moving forward with the unlawful sale charge because he wants to send a message to other businesses taking advantage of this cannabis gifting practice, which is growing in popularity across the state.
"If you are selling cannabis in Cheektowaga, we are looking for you and we will be at your store with a search warrant one of these days," said Gould.
Gould calls it a public safety risk because the cannabis products being distributed are unregulated, and could easily get into the wrong hands.
"We have people going into these totally unregulated stores, buying a drug that they have no idea what's in it, that are definitely even marketed to look like candy and cookies and things that appeal to the young people in our community, parents might not even realize their kid is ingesting a drug. The packages are very similar to real packages," said Gould.
When officers descended on Shake N' Daze to execute the search warrant, Gould estimates at least 100 customers showed up to the store.