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North Syracuse cannabis ‘social club’ likely violating state laws, expert says

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A North Syracuse business owner is standing firm that his “social club” is operating legally by providing a place for people to learn about cannabis and at times smoke on premises.

Experts disagree, expecting the NYS Office of Cannabis Management to shut down The Haven Coalition shortly.

Over the weekend, North Syracuse Village Police said they were cracking down on the business, located on the 600 block of South Main Street near Sweetheart Corner. North Syracuse Police claim a joint detail with State Troopers resulted in 94 vehicle stops, 54 traffic tickets, 11 searches, a felony arrest, a warrant arrest and three misdemeanor arrests. They worry about people driving while ability impaired by drugs and seized seven pounds of pot and a half-kilo of a possible narcotic that’s still being tested.

Cory Gillum, the owner and operator of The Haven Coalition, believes he is being unfairly targeted. He is firm that they do not operate as a dispensary, stating that no cannabis is sold. Instead, he said that they provide a safe space for vendors and people interested in cannabis to learn about what products might best suit them. He said that during that process, a small amount of cannabis is exchanged when people become paying members, given away for free.

“I do not own a dispensary, we are a private social club,” Gillum told CNY Central on Sunday.

However, licenses to provide a space for on-site commercial consumption don’t exist yet. The period for application ended in October of 2023, and NYS has not yet issued any; it’s why Ryan McCall, a cannabis law expert in New York with the Tully Rinckey Law Firm, said that The Haven Coalition is likely operating illegally.

“This isn’t a private residence and you’re allowing the commercial consumption of cannabis,” McCall said, “at that point, they do have enough to come in and say ‘This needs to be put to an end.'”

North Syracuse officials said that they have heard numerous complaints from neighbors about the large volume of cars and people that The Haven Coalition attracts on weekend nights. Gillum disputes the claim, saying he has gotten nothing but support from neighboring businesses.

He has also raised issues with two police calls from last week, claiming that he was effectively “swatted” by upset customers who made false 911 calls about a hostage situation. The North Syracuse Police Chief and Mayor declined to comment on Monday.

Gillum said that he first pitched his business to the village in 2022, getting things operational in late May of that year. CNY Central obtained a fire safety report from that time showing that North Syracuse Code Enforcement passed The Haven Coalition, listed as a commercial business.

For now, the business is still open and operating, with Gillum considering legal action against the village.

Meanwhile, neighbors CNY Central spoke to in the neighborhood of The Haven Coalition—are also concerned about the grey areas around legal cannabis use.

“It comes down to Albany,” said Ian Fitzpatrick. “They got to really make sure they have all their I’s dotted and t’s crossed and really make sure that they have everything planned out. A lot of it comes down to making sure legislation does what they need to do, that way people can enjoy the laws that are just passed and can do everything the right way. If we’re not all on the same page, nothing is going to get done.”

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