Police arrest Grow Haus manager on drug charges in business raid

  • File photo  File photo

  • Grow Haus, 26 Strong Ave., pictured Thursday, May 17, 2018. —STAFF PHOTO / EMILY CUTTS

Thursday, May 17, 2018

NORTHAMPTON — The manager and part-owner of Grow Haus was arrested at the Strong Avenue store on drug possession charges after police executed a search warrant and confiscated the store’s cannabidiol products.

Scott Scherer, 32, pleaded not guilty Thursday in Northampton District Court to charges of possession of psilocybin mushrooms and possession of THC juice. THC is the psychoactive compound in cannabis.

At his arraignment, Scherer’s attorney Tom Kokonowski told the court Scherer would be taking part in the Northwestern district attorney’s office’s drug diversion and treatment program. As a part of that program, the prosecution of the case is suspended and charges could ultimately be dismissed, according to court documents.

His next court date is scheduled for June 6.

The Wednesday arrest followed an investigation into the illegal sale of marijuana and possession of psilocybin mushrooms at Grow Haus, a business that sells cannabis grow supplies, among many other retail items.

The search warrant was executed by the Northampton Police Department in conjunction with the Northwestern District Attorney’s Anti-Crime Task Force. Police arrived at the store at noon on Wednesday and spoke with Scherer and another employee. Scherer was brought to the station for questioning where he allegedly told officers that he self-medicates using psilocybin mushrooms for mental illnesses.

“Scherer stated that he knows psilocybin mushrooms are illegal, but they have helped him so much that he takes the risk of criminal charges when using them,” Northampton Patrol Officer Joshua Wallace wrote in a report. “Scherer stated that he uses a very small amount daily for two week to alter his brain chemistry in order to not suffer from his mental illness.”

When presented with the state’s marijuana laws, Scherer allegedly admitted to unwittingly violating several of them, including gifting marijuana to a 19-year-old and gifting marijuana seeds as a promotion for his business, Wallace wrote. He denied being involved in any sales of marijuana from the store and did not answer officers when asked if he had knowledge of other employees making marijuana sales, according to the report.

Police located “numerous” cannabidiol (CBD) products in the store including oils, wax and edibles that officers said all tested positive for the presence of THC. The items were seized and processed as evidence, Wallace wrote.

CBD is a non-psychoactive component of marijuana and is one of more than 100 chemicals found in the cannabis plant. It doesn’t contain THC.

CBD oil is currently sold online and in specialty shops across the country, though its legal status remains murky. Most producers say their oil is made from hemp, a form of cannabis that contains little THC and can be legally farmed in a number of states for clothing, food and other uses.

Depending on the THC content in CBD products, they either fall under the regulation of the state’s Cannabis Control Commission or the Massachusetts Department of Agricultural Resources, according to attorney Michael Cutler. Cutler is a Northampton attorney at EvansCutler Attorneys who served on the drafting committee for Question 4 in 2016 and was active in the creation of the state’s adult use regulations.

CBD products with 0.3 percent or less THC by volume fall under the regulation of the agricultural department.

Material from the Associated Press was used in this report.Emily Cutts can be reached at ecutts@gazettenet.com.