Tag Archives: Operation Candy Crush

Stores Reopened, Charges Dropped After TN Raid on Legal CBD Gummies

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.”

In CBD-Legal Tennessee, Cops Raid Shops Selling Non-THC CBD Gummies

Police in Rutherford County, Tenn. padlocked 23 stores accused of selling non-THC cannabidiol (CBD) gummies in a county-wide raid called Operation: Candy Crush on Monday. The multi-agency raid included detectives from Rutherford County Sheriff’s Department, Murfreesboro Police, Smyrna Police, and the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation.

WREG-TV notes that 21 individuals have received indictments for selling the products.

However, given that the sale of hemp products and the possession of non-THC CBD products had been legalized in the state in recent years, questions have been raised as to the legality of the raid.

These CBD products do not contain significant quantities of THC, the active ingredient in marijuana that produces intoxication, and are mainly popular for medicinal uses, such as symptom management in seizure disorders.

A 2014 Tennessee law redefined hemp-derived products containing less than 0.3 percent THC as an industrial product rather than a controlled substance. A 2016 law created a pilot program for cultivating hemp and a licensing system for distributors.

“Any person who makes only retail sales of industrial hemp obtained from a licensed processor or distributor will not be required to obtain a license,” notes HB 2032.

[RELATED: Tennessee Governor Signs Cannabis Oil Legalization Bill into Law]

While those laws created a legal marketplace for hemp-derived CBD, another 2015 law, SB 0280, redefined the state definition of the controlled substance marijuana to exclude marijuana-derived CBD products with less than 0.9 percent THC, which stops short of creating a legal marketplace for those distinctly different but similar products, but prevents marijuana-derived possessors from being busted under pot laws.

While the TBI has not yet announced which products were seized in the raid and it is possible that some of the products seized were not made from hemp, the products depicted in a Rutherford County Sheriff’s Department Facebook post as examples of those items seized appear to be hemp-derived CBD gummies, which distributors claim are legal.

Tennessee Hemp Industries Association president Joe Kirkpatrick told The Tennessean, “Presently, under the new law, a person can possess an industrial hemp product. If in fact the products they’ve seized derived from industrial hemp, then the DA has broken federal law.” Federal law prohibits law enforcement agencies that receive federal funds from interfering in the cultivation and distribution of licensed industrial hemp.

Rutherford County Sheriff Mike Fitzhugh said, “We feel these stores are marketing these items toward minors. These items can commonly be confused by a child as candy and are illegal.” However, law enforcement officials acknowledge that the products cost between 7$ to $70, multiple times more expensive than traditional candy gummies.

District Attorney Jennings Jones claimed, “If you possess this without a prescription, you have broken the law. If you are selling this without a prescription or if you’re not a pharmacy selling it to someone with a prescription for it, you have broken the law.”

Truth in Media contacted several pharmacies in the state and none carry CBD products. A manager at a Nashville-based vape shop who did not want to be identified told Truth in Media that his store had previously carried hemp CBD gummies, but stopped prior to the raid out of confusion over different agencies’ interpretations of the legality of the products.

State Rep. Jeremy Faison (R-District 11) said in a Facebook post on the incident, “There is a whole lot more to this story than what is being reported. I spoke with the TBI tonight. Several of these stores were selling products from China and other countries. After the TBI took products to their lab, they found that multiple compounds of substances were found in packaged material and they weren’t even labeled to have the compounds found. Melatonin, sugar, ibuprofen, Benadryl, and other things like that were found. From what I have been told nothing was necessarily dangerous or found to be an intoxicant.”

“This is one of the very main reasons we should pass the Medical Cannabis Only bill. We can have a regulated, predictable, safe, and lab tested product. Tennesseans should never be left to purchase something that is derived from the cannabis plant without knowing exactly what they are getting,” Faison added. “I imagine that the majority of the charges will not turn into convictions. One day in the very near future, Tennessee will realize 3 things: cannabis is not the problem, cannabis is far safer than many FDA approved pills, and cannabis actually does work for some very sick Tennesseans.”

According to the Times Free Press, Rep. Faison and Sen. Steve Dickerson(R-Nashville) introduced the Medical Cannabis Only bill on January 18, which would expand medical marijuana access to individuals with qualified serious medical conditions.

The 21 individuals indicted in this case are due in court on February 16.