Rutherford County, Tenn. District Attorney Jennings Jones announced Wednesday that his office is dropping all charges, ranging from public nuisance violations to felony drug charges, against the 23 stores and shopkeepers that had been targeted in “Operation: Candy Crush.”
Truth in Media reported last month that Rutherford County Sheriff Mike Fitzhugh had launched the county-wide raid, shuttering stores and issuing indictments to those selling non-THC hemp cannabidiol (CBD) gummies, despite the fact that such products had been legalized in Tennessee in 2014.
The Tennessean notes that Judge Royce Taylor had ordered that the stores be reopened just days after the raid.
According to NewsChannel5, District Attorney Jones’ statement read, “[Two assistants from the District Attorney’s office] made TBI officials aware of our concerns that several lab reports they had issued declared that edible products that had been purchased by police officers contained a substance called cannabidiol and listed that substance as a Schedule VI controlled substance.”
The statement continued, “It now appears that the TBI lab reports, if they had been accurately written, should have stated that their findings were ‘inconclusive’ as to whether cannabidiol is a controlled substance. The cannabidiol substance detected by the TBI lab in the edible candies is identical in composition to the same extract from hemp products, which are distinct under the law from marijuana products.”
Jones said that the TBI would be returning the stores’ property to them.
The products seized by police were commercially-available CBD gummies with packaging indicating that they were derived from hemp.
Rutherford County Sheriff’s Office spokesperson Lisa Marchesoni shifted blame for the raid in an email to The Tennessean, saying, “The Sheriff’s Office was acting on orders of the court. When an indictment or court order comes to the Sheriff’s Office, we are required to serve the documents.”
Local store owner Stacey Hamilton said, “From the moment I found out what they were doing, I knew I had committed no crime… This has caused an enormous cost to all the store owners. I don’t think they’ll apologize in nearly as public a way as they condemned us as drug dealers.”
The store owners targeted in the county-wide raid now plan to file civil suits.
In the initial press conference announcing the raid last month, detectives seemed unaware of the nature of the products that they had seized. When a reporter asked Smyrna Police Chief Kevin Arnold what the products are used for, he said, “It’s used to get high.”
“No, it’s not. It doesn’t have THC in it,” a reporter said.
“Then why are they buying it?” Chief Arnold replied.
When the reporter explained that it is used as a medicinal product and that it is legal, Chief Arnold said, “We’ll check on that.”
Characterizing Tennessee laws on hemp-derived CBD products, Tennessee Hemp Industries Assocation president Joe Kirkpatrick said in a post on Facebook, “All Industrial Hemp products, including cannabidiol (CBD) are fully legal in Tennessee without a prescription.”