ITHACA, N.Y.—The Office of Cannabis Management’s last public appearance in Ithaca was one of celebration as the William Jane Dispensary became the city’s first licensed retail cannabis dispensary in March. On Tuesday, OCM officials were in town again for a different purpose: raiding two stores located just feet away from William Jane’s entrance on the Ithaca Commons, apparently due to the stores allegedly selling cannabis without a license.
The raid centered on Zaza’s Exotic Market and Smoke Shop and Black Leaf NY, both of which are located close to each other on the Cayuga Street side of the Commons. It is the first, or at least the most visible, raid of an unlicensed cannabis dispensary in Ithaca. People in “NYS OCM Enforcement” and “Police” jackets were seen searching both stores and piling products outside on the Commons.
A large sign on Black Leaf’s window stated that illicit cannabis had been seized from the property, branded from the state’s Office of Cannabis Management. The sign deems itself a “warning,” and it is unclear if anyone will face charges stemming from the raid, or what was recovered.
Tompkins County District Attorney Matthew Van Houten told The Ithaca Voice that his office was not involved and he was not consulted on the raid. Ithaca Police Department Acting Chief Ted Schwartz has not yet responded to a request for comment, though previously IPD and Ithaca leadership has shown little interest in interfering with retail cannabis operations since the drug was fully legalized in March 2021.
The owner of Zaza’s declined to comment.
A request for comment sent to OCM has not been answered. New York State Police Troop C Public Information Officer Agnieszka Dembinska said state police were not involved. The raid comes just days after OCM officials began discussing a crackdown of sorts on cannabis businesses that were operating without a Cannabis Adult Use Retail Dispensary (CAURD) license.
OCM has previously made forays into stopping the unlicensed market locally, though their attempts appeared misguided. Last year, the office claimed that it sent cease and desist letters to two local businesses—Good Vibes Exotics, a well-known sticker store in Ithaca, and the LakeWatch Inn, an events venue in Lansing. However, LakeWatch ownership said they had been wrongly targeted because someone was falsely using their name to conduct cannabis business, while Good Vibes owners said they never actually received any correspondence from the state regarding their operations.
Ithaca Voice reporter Judy Lucas and intern Aubren Villaseñor both contributed reporting to this article.