Why 2021 raid of smoke shops is important to DA, youth alliance

Published: May. 18, 2023 at 5:23 PM EDT
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WATERTOWN, New York (WWNY) - We’ve learned the outcome of a police raid a year and a half ago. It targeted smoke shops and ended with 4 arrests, something important to those who try to keep illegal substances out of the hands of children.

Thirteen felony counts against 4 men for criminal possession and sale of a controlled substance stemming from a December 2021 Metro-Jeff Drug Task Force operation.

“They conducted a series of raids, and did search warrants on various smoke shops in the area,” said Jefferson County District Attorney Kristyna Mills.

She says store employees from different smoke shops in and around Watertown were arrested in the raids.

“A lot of the psilocybin products, as well as illegal cannabis products, and a great deal of flavored nicotine products which are illegal,” she said.

Mills says her office received several complaints from concerned parents about how easy it was for kids to buy illegal substances. She says her office routinely gets boxes from school resource officers of vaping products taken from students.

To help combat the problem, the DA teamed up with PIVOT and the Youth Alliance of Jefferson County.

“What we have found is that we have a significant challenge with access of vapes, THC and the highly addictive nicotine type,” said Tammie Nabywaniec, project director at the Youth Alliance of Jefferson County.

The next step is a meeting next week with Albany lawmakers to push for laws already on the books banning the sale of flavored nicotine products to be enforced.

“We understand there’s laws, but we need laws that are not meaningless. We need laws that truly have something behind them for enforcement, and that are going to make a difference,” said Nabywaniec.

Mills says this may not stop with arresting store workers that the state’s attorney general is also targeting the shops themselves, which could include holding landlords, where the shops rent, accountable as well.