Operation Candy Crush: The Whole Story and What We Can Learn From It

Back in February, “Operation Candy Crush” made national headline news. The story is itself intriguing and full of suspense, calling into question current CBD laws. On February 12, police officers from the Rutherford County Sheriff’s Office raided 23 stores across the county. In these busts, deputies seized a variety of non-psychoactive cannabidiol products, labeled under the widely known abbreviation CBD.

Officers took CBD oils, vape cartridges, gummy candies, and even cash as evidence. They closed all the stores and kept them locked for four whole days. If that is not odd enough, the District Attorney’s Office further petitioned to shut down all 23 stores permanently, claiming them public nuisances. In yet another twist, 21 storeowners found themselves facing felony charges for selling drugs illegally.

Can You Buy CBD Legally?

To add injury to insult, the case gets even weirder: At least one storeowner has grounds to hold authorities accountable for losses sustained while the store was under order to stay closed. The Last Stop Market saw its stock looted when a thief broke in during its enforced shutdown. According to store clerk Jacklyn Ryder, she was working when the raid occurred and had no chance to secure the premises.

In an interview with a local TV news station, Ryder said, “Our store was left unalarmed for four days while we were closed down because of this.” She blamed deputies for denying her the fleeting time needed to set the store’s alarm before shutting it down. The thief pried the store’s back door open, stole some beer and merrily left the store $600 richer.

During the easiest burglary in history, the thief damaged the store’s door extensively. The owner of Last Stop Market intends filing suit against authorities, which is a sentiment that Ryder shares. She explained, “I feel not only him. I feel like every store that suffered should file a lawsuit because they have families too.” This is true for all involved, as many lost sales, wages, and even human dignity.

Ryder continued her story, “I went four days. That is about $400 out of my check that I do not have now because of some allegation that is not true.” It seems all the confusion stems from whether the CBD oils and products originated from marijuana or hemp. Most marijuana strains have high concentrations of tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC. However, hemp does not.

THC is the chemical constituent responsible for making users high, but hemp contains very little of it. In fact, hemp cannot make you stoned. For this reason, most CBD products are hemp-derived, and while some companies extract cannabidiol specifically from marijuana plants to make CBD products, the result is the same: Users get all the medical benefits of cannabis without getting high.

Therefore, for a chemical having no mental effects on users, which no honest person could even consider a drug; storeowners had their stores closed and felony charges brought against them. Even worse, as the Tennessee Department of Agriculture states, farmers can grow hemp legally under a pilot program. Despite all of this, officers still raided these stores, arrested people and shut businesses down.

To establish if the CBD oils and other products came from marijuana or hemp, the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation, or TBI, sent them in for laboratory testing. According to Rutherford County, Tennessee District Judge Jennings J. Jones, “Chemists from the TBI informed my office that they cannot determine whether the cannabidiol detected on these products came from a hemp plant or a marijuana plant.”

Initially, Jones supported the actions of the officers, expressing extreme confidence in their case. In a complete about-turn, he said during a press conference that, “TBI is no longer willing to testify that this is a Schedule VI substance. We have no choice to dismiss.” However, Jones also said that, “If you possess this without a prescription, you have broken the law.”

If anyone in Tennessee is still rightly confused, Jones further elaborated with, “If you are selling this without a prescription, or if you are not a pharmacy selling it to someone with a prescription for it, you have broken the law.” Legalese can be confusing, but in English, this means that you can buy CBD legally if you have a prescription and shops can only conduct legal CBD sales with those who have one.

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Lessons from “Operation Candy Crush”

Because tests could not decipher whether the CBD products were hemp- or marijuana-derived, prosecutors had no choice but to drop the charges against all indicted in this case. The District Attorney’s Office also had to end their actions against the shops too. On February 28, Jones said in a press release that he was filing a motion for the court to dismiss all charges.

In response to the ordeal, other storeowners will join Last Stop Market to file a civil claim. They supported each other during the whole saga and vowed not to enter into any plea bargain. Stacy Hamilton, an affected storeowner, said, “This has caused an enormous cost to all the storeowners. I do not think they will apologize in nearly a public way as they condemned us as drug dealers.”

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