HADDAM – A Waterbury man who owns Higganum Smoke Shop in Haddam was charged on July 31 with illegally selling marijuana, risk of injury to a minor and second-degree reckless endangerment after a monthslong undercover operation by law enforcement.
Sajid Sheikh, 26, was released on a $10,000 bond and is scheduled to be arraigned at state Superior Court in Middletown on Aug. 21.
According to the arrest affidavit, State Trooper Joshua Muckle was called to Haddam-Killingworth High School on Feb. 2, where Principal Donna Hayward handed over a “vape smoking device” that possibly contained traces of marijuana. Later that day, Assistant Principal Adam Apicella turned over a second vape smoking device to Muckle.
State police were contacted that same day by a father of a 14-year-old female student at the high school who had been in possession of one of the vape smoking devices, the affidavit said.
When police interviewed the girl the next day, she said she purchased the “weed pen” in January at the Higganum Smoke Shop from a tall, white, skinny male in his early 20s. The name of the employee as well as other employees at the shop were redacted from the affidavit.
The affidavit states the girl asked for “carts,” or cartridges for vape pens, a term used for purchasing vape or THC products; the employee then retrieved a duffle bag from a back store room and sold her two cartridges for $100.
The girl returned to the shop later that day to purchase another cartridge, the affidavit said, but a clerk described as an older Indian man in his 60s or 70s asked for identification. When she told him she didn’t have one, he sold it to her anyway for $52 and said to “keep it on the down low,” according to the report. This cartridge – labeled “Royal Gold” – was still in the girl’s possession and was turned over to police.
State police then started collaborating with the Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services Prevention Services and the Department of Revenue services to investigate the Higganum Smoke Shop. The vape pens were sent to the state’s Forensic Science Laboratory to be tested for marijuana or THC, and later tested positive for Delta-8-THC and Delta-9-THC, the affidavit stated.
On March 6, an on-site investigation of the smoke shop began, and an underage informant purchased cigars from the clerk containing tobacco, according to police. An undercover special agent then entered the store and asked for a cartridge.
The clerk allegedly opened a safe and presented a cartridge to the agent. The agent asked what the THC level was, and the clerk responded saying it was “full” THC, the report said. The clerk then allegedly presented a box of “Royal Gold” cartridges and offered to sell one for $50. At this time, the agent revealed his identity and asked to speak to the shop owner.
When the owner, Sheikh, arrived at the store, he consented to a search of the establishment, the affidavit states. Ultimately, 52 pieces of evidence were logged, including a box of Delta-8 and Delta-9 THC products that were on the sales floor, which may not be sold by anyone other than “a licensed cannabis retailer or a medical marijuana dispensary” since July 2021, according to the report.
Sheikh allegedly said the THC and CBD products were for his personal use, but also that he had been selling THC and marijuana products because he thought it was legal since his distributor sold them to him.
It was also determined upon inspection that the store’s cigarette license had expired in September 2021, the report stated.
Shiekh was taken into custody on July 31.
Elizabeth Benton, the director of communications for Attorney General William Tong told CT Examiner on Thursday that the office doesn’t have criminal jurisdiction over illegal drug sales.
“We are aggressively using our civil authority to pursue violations of the Unfair Trade Practices Act regarding the sale of illegal Delta-8 THC products mimicking popular youth-oriented snacks and candies,” she said. “We have sued seven retailers and are actively investigating many other retailers and suppliers with our partners at the Department of Consumer Protection, and have sent warning letters to all licensed retailers of electronic vaping products advising them that the sale of Delta-8 THC by unlicensed retailers may be illegal.”
She said the attorney general’s office notified retailers earlier this year that “any products that exceed 0.3% THC on a dry weight basis or by volume are considered cannabis and may only be sold in the regulated market and must meet rigorous testing and packaging requirements.”
She said any marijuana products sold outside of the regulated market continue to be illegal, and sellers are subject to civil and criminal penalties.