An Ocean County judge sentenced NJ underground legacy operator Daniel Kessel of Bud Hub to 5 years in jail on marijuana-related charges.
Those who dislike New Jersey underground legacy operators might be very happy. But large parts of the New Jersey cannabis community and industry will likely not be.
He was among the leading followers of NJWeedman’s flamboyant style and defiance of the law. However, Ocean County is far more conservative than Mercer County, where NJWeedman operated in Trenton, where Mayor Reed Gusciora has been pro-cannabis.
In reality, he was a friendly and warm person who thought he was helping people get their medicine in some cases. In addition, he was a leading advocate of New Jersey cannabis legalization who attended State House protests.
Local advocates and supporters protested his arrest last year unsuccessfully.
Judge Kimarie Rahill sentenced him to five years in New Jersey State Prison after he pled guilty to “Conspiracy to Maintain a Controlled Dangerous Substance Production Facility.” Rahill also sentenced Kessel to five years after he pled guilty to “Conspiracy to Commit Financial Facilitation and Failure to Pay Income Tax.” The judge also sentenced Kessel to five years for “Conspiracy to Distribute Marijuana in a Quantity of More than Five Pounds but Less than Twenty-Five Pounds.”
The sentences will run concurrently.
Kessel pled guilty to all charges on August 14, 2023.
NJ Underground Legacy Operator in Ocean County
An investigation by the Berkeley Township Police Department Detective Bureau determined that Kessel was utilizing a residence in the Holiday City section of Berkeley Township for Bud Hub distribution.
On August 16, 2020, the Berkeley Township Police Department began surveilling his home. On August 25th, they executed a court-authorized search warrant with a raid.
Detectives seized approximately seven pounds of Hashish, two pounds of what they called “THC,” which likely refers to marijuana flower, drug paraphernalia, equipment and supplies indicative of manufacturing and distributing narcotics, and approximately $18,000.
Cops learned he had a safe deposit box at a Bank of America branch in Toms River. Detectives executed a court-authorized search warrant on the safe deposit box and seized an additional $61,000.
Kessel was arrested, taken to the Ocean County Jail, and later released due to New Jersey bail reform. But he remained defiant.
While the charges were pending in the first case, authorities began investigating again and learned Kessel was still operating.
Ocean County Law Enforcement Strikes
On September 13, 2021, Detectives from the Ocean County Prosecutor’s Office Narcotics Strike Force, Berkeley Township Police Department, Lacey Township Police Department, Ocean Gate Police Department, and Toms River Township Police Department started spying on him again.
On October 20, 2021, the cops again raided his operations.
Cops seized approximately $457,000 at that time.
Detectives also located and froze a Venmo account containing $49,000 and a CashApp account containing an additional $45,000.
Kessel was taken into custody, transported to the Ocean County Jail, and again released.
But for a third time, the police spied on him operating at home and arrested him again.
The third investigation led to surveillance that started Jan. 31, 2023, and ended Feb. 21, 2023, with Kessel’s arrest and the seizure of several ounces of marijuana and THC products, Billhimer said. The prosecutor said Kessel was held in the Ocean County Jail from Feb. 21 until his guilty plea in August.
Authorities seized more than $630,000 from Kessel’s homes and accounts.
But this time, he spent several months in jail before pleading guilty last August.
Cops Brigade Bust Bud Hub
The Ocean County Prosecutor acknowledged the efforts of Assistant Prosecutor Stephen Burke, who handled the matters on behalf of the State.
The New Jersey Department of the Treasury-Office of Criminal Investigation, the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) High-Intensity Drug Trafficking Areas (HIDTA), Berkeley Township Police Department Detective Bureau, Lacey Township Police Department Detective Bureau, South Toms River Police Department, Ocean Gate Police Department, Manchester Township Police Department Narcotics Enforcement Team, Toms River Township Police Department, Toms River Township Police Department Emergency Services Unit, and the Ocean County Regional SWAT Team coordinated their efforts.
Underground Legacy to Legal Cannabis Dispensary Advocate
Kessel wanted to go legal and operate a licensed New Jersey cannabis dispensary in Ocean County. So, he advocated for the South Toms River Town Council to allow dispensaries. Kessel worked hard to convince them to allow dispensaries. In 2021, after being arrested, he was working on his legal dispensary application. His efforts were successful. Despite his arrest, others can reap the benefits.
The Social Leaf dispensary was opened last year by local serial businessmen in South Toms River.
Some local police have been working to arrest other outspoken and defiant underground legacy operators in New Jersey.