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Syracuse pot market facing scrutiny as state still drafting rules for legal sales

Donald Paradise, co-founder of Alien Opera House.
Donald Paradise, co-founder of Alien Opera House.

Alien Opera House, an event space on the city's North Side, regularly played host to vendors distributing marijuana—customers were gifted pot with the purchase of a sticker or sweatshirt. But the market is now hopping locations after a church next door filed suit.

The action comes as the state still hasn't released its rules for legitimate sales, even though it approved recreational use and possession nearly a year ago.

Alien Opera House Co-Founder Donald Paradise said he believes the market isn't breaking any laws.  He said the vendors must sign paperwork relieving him of any liability.

"We are just providing a platform here."

But according to, Assumption Church located next door is filing suit over the pot smoke flowing from the market. And, as the newspaper reported, the suit argues even if the market did have a license, pot shops aren't permitted so close to a place of worship.

The article notes that Alien Opera House subleased its space to another group for the market.

Paradise said he feels it's his right to smoke marijuana and assemble.

"We want to do things legally and properly and we will do so. Until they make up a form to fill out, we will operate within the guidelines that exist and live our lives."

But Aleece Burgio, member of the state bar association's cannabis law committee, said they are not operating within the guidelines. Burgio said similar gray markets are popping up across New York as repercussions are lax.

"There has not been too much enforcement happening on the black market/gray market." 

The biggest consequence could come directly from the state, which has ordered at least 22 businesses to shut down. If the locations continue operating, they will be barred from entering the legal market when it finally is up and running, Burgio said.

Alien Opera House's Paradise said he has not received a cease-and-desist letter from the state, but is forced to relocate the market after the lawsuit filed by the church.