RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — The co-founder of Happy Trees Agricultural Supply has been arrested on charges of intent to distribute marijuana and other controlled substances, days after the business’s warehouse and retail store were searched by police.
On Wednesday, Feb. 15, the Richmond Police Department executed a search warrant at the Happy Trees Agricultural Supply store located at 1020 North Arthur Ashe Boulevard. This followed an earlier search warrant on Thursday, Feb. 9 at the Happy Trees warehouse at 1809 Roane Street.
Also on Wednesday, Happy Trees co-founder Josiah Ickes was arrested and charged with two counts of conspiring to commit a felony, including possession with intent to distribute a Schedule I controlled substance and possession with intent to distribute marijuana.
According to the Office of the Virginia Attorney General, Schedule I drugs “have a high potential for abuse and no accepted medical use.”
In accordance with Virginia laws passed in 2021, adults who are 21 years old or older can use or grow marijuana in the privacy of their own homes. However, possessing more than four ounces of marijuana in public is a criminal misdemeanor offense. A person having more than four marijuana plants is also a misdemeanor crime. Possessing more than one pound of marijuana or more than 49 plants are both felony offenses in the state of Virginia.
The sale, manufacturing, and distribution of marijuana is still a crime in Virginia, regardless of how much marijuana is sold. Sale or manufacturing of less than an ounce is a misdemeanor, anything more is a felony.
Ickes spoke with 8News following the first search warrant against Happy Trees, which was executed during the weekly Tree Trade Thursday event. During this event, people 21 years or older can come out for food, music and seed trading “while enjoying cannabis in all its forms,” as the event is advertised on Happy Trees’ website.
“Our background is that we’re an agricultural supply store, and we help bring the community together, and that’s been our big focus,” Ickes said after the search warrant at the warehouse. “We’re really saddened by what happened yesterday because we really feel like it was some type of mistaken identity.”
Happy Trees Agricultural Supply advertises itself as a “hydroponics and indoor gardening store.” The website lists items the store offers, such as grow lights, plant nutrients and hydroponic equipment. While the store itself does not advertise marijuana or other drugs on its website, the store has openly hosted and advertised marijuana-centric events such as “Smokin Sundays.”
A statement from Richmond Police following Ickes’ arrested seemed to specifically point to vendor events like Tree Trade Thursdays as an issue for law enforcement.
“There have been occasions in the city of Richmond where individuals set up ‘pop-up’ events that allow for multiple ‘vendors’ to come to one location and sell marijuana,” Richmond Police wrote in a statement on Thursday, Feb. 16. “These vendors are not licensed to sell marijuana, or any other illegal substance in the city of Richmond. These events pose a danger and a significant threat to the quality of life in our community and those who organize and/or participate will be investigated when information is received that they are occurring.”
According to a statement from the Richmond Police Department, law enforcement officials are prohibited from releasing information on what led to the Feb. 9 and Feb. 15 search warrants and what items were seized from the shop and warehouse. Both search warrants have been sealed by a judge.
Authorities originally told 8News that the warrant was for narcotics, and the search warrant noted police were investigating possession with intent to distribute marijuana and psilocybin. Psilocybin, the key ingredient in “magic mushrooms,” is a Schedule I drug in Virginia. A recent effort in the Virginia Senate to reduce penalties for the possession of psilocybin was shot down in the Virginia House on Tuesday, Feb. 14.
People at the Tree Trade Thursday event told 8News that they witnessed police seizing marijuana, money, and paraphernalia. However, those at the event reportedly did not see police find illicit substances like cocaine.
Brandon Fountain, an attendee at Tree Trade Thursday, Feb. 9, told 8News he saw customers and vendors being zip-tied and handcuffed, and event attendees were questioned and searched before being released.
“It’s terrifying,” he said. “We pay taxes. We listen to the rules and the laws that [are] set before us, and we do the best that we can to obtain by them, and then we still get raided.”
According to Richmond Police, these cases are actively being investigated by RPD’s Focus Mission Teams.