Attendees at the High Bazaar in Hamden, Conn. last fall at the open lot where the event returned last week after a court order eliminated its indoor space. Credit: Samantha Perrelli

Connecticut’s weekly High Bazaar event, where cannabis producers can gift their product and receive donations, is returning to its original location following a cease and desist order from the Town of Hamden.

The High Bazaar has been held almost every weekend in Hamden since the state first legalized adult-use cannabis last summer. In recent weeks, the event was presented by local news outlets as an underground market existing in a legal gray area.

The High Bazaar is made possible by the portion of the state cannabis law that allows two individuals to give each other cannabis in the form of a gift. Presenters at the event can request specific donations but are not allowed to make direct sales.

“There’s no sales. I don’t allow any sales there,” said bazaar founder Joseph Raymond Accettullo. “It all falls under the gifting apparatus that the state put into play with this new bill.”

Accettullo was referring to last summer’s adult-use legalization law, which allows gifting. Because the event is private and hinges on cannabis being gifted, rather than sold, it has been allowed to continue without the interference of legal authorities.

Shortly after those reports the cease and desist letter was sent to the event organizers, making it appear the letter was a response to the new attention the event was receiving. In reality, the concern was a zoning matter unrelated to how many people may or may not have been walking out of the event with cannabis products, according to a complaint filed by the town in New Haven Superior Court on Feb. 9, citing zoning code concerns. 

[Download the complaint. Download the motion for temporary injunction.]

“The building at the property was given a Certificate of Occupancy for storage of landscaping equipment,” said the nine-page complaint. “Upon information and belief, the building at the property does not comply with the Building and Fire Codes for large scale occupancy such as the Cannabis Bazaar.”

The complaint came with an application for injunction, which stated that about 500-1,000 people attended the bazaar on Feb. 5 and 6, congesting the immediate area.

“The amount of people, traffic, and parking created a threat to the public health, safety, and welfare,” said the court filing. “The defendants did not obtain an Amusement permit from the Hamden Police Department pursuant to the Hamden Code of Ordinances and/or a Bazaar and Raffles Permit pursuant to the Hamden Code of Ordinances.”

Despite the order, the High Bazaar was able to go on again last Saturday, but in an outdoor parking lot where the event originally held before moving indoors for winter.

The town’s Planning and Zoning Commission approved a one-year ban on any new cannabis licensing last December. This followed Hamden Mayor Lauren Garrett’s announcement that the town was establishing a cannabis task force to craft new zoning and social equity ordinances.

Accettullo is actually one of the members of that task force.

“There wasn’t enough space on the road for our traffic,” he said. “We wanted to work with the town. And as long as we go to a new location where it’s zoned for that amount of people in those types of events, we can have a long-term home in Hamden.”

The mayor’s office did not respond to an emailed request for comment by publication.

Accettullo said he prefers to think about the High Bazaar as a weekly celebration of cannabis, featuring live music and educational materials for people interested in cannabis for both recreational and medical uses.

“The value of the High Bazaars is much greater, I think, than any of us realize. Basically, up until now the Cannabis industry in Connecticut is filled with corporate mega lords,” said Accettullo, referring to the multi-state operators that own medical dispensaries in the state. “It’s the beating heart of the cannabis community.”

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Zack cut his journalistic teeth covering high school sports in the south before spending a decade covering local government, politics and the courts in the Boston, Massachusetts area. He's previously written...