Operation “Candy Crush”: Tennessee Sheriffs Raid 23 Shops Allegedly Selling “Synthetic Drug” CBD

On Monday, police officers in Tennessee’s Rutherford County raided and padlocked 23 businesses which they claim were selling candy containing the cannabinoid CBD. Operation “Candy Crush” has so far indicted 21 people, according to a statement from the Rutherford County Sheriff’s Office. The Sheriff’s office posted a news release including photos of the confiscated products on their facebook page.

About Operation “Candy Crush”

Authorities state they were tipped off by parents in the area of who claimed that the businesses in question sold gummy bears and other candies containing cannabidiol (CBD) in stores throughout the regions of Murfreesboro, Smyrna, and La Vergne.

The businesses were padlocked by court order after a Circuit Court judge reviewed evidence that the stores were selling illegal substances and “were deemed a public nuisance,” according to the news release.

After the operation ended, Rutherford County Sheriff Mike Fitzhugh talked to the press about the dangers of infusing candy with cannabinoids mistakenly calling CBD (a harmless hemp extract) a “synthetic cannabinoid” (which can be deadly).

Undercover detectives bought the illegal products containing CBD at each of the stores and, upon testing, detected CBD in gummy bears, gummy worms, and other candy-like products. The products were priced from $7 to $70 and were marketed as mood enhancers, with “drawings of marijuana leaves” on the packaging, the police say.

They spray them with this illegal substance, and then they repackage them,” said Fitzhugh, who added that there had been two deaths in the United States linked to synthetic drugs. “That would be a tragic thing to happen to any family. We do want to caution parents. We certainly don’t want our kids getting into this.”

Fitzhugh alleges that these stores were marketing these products toward minors. “These items can commonly be confused by a child as candy and are illegal,” he said. According to the investigators, CBD is considered a Schedule VI narcotic in Tennessee making it illegal to possess or sell in the state unless prescribed by a doctor and dispensed by a licensed distributor.

There are many things that are illegal to possess without a prescription,” said District Attorney General Jennings Jones. “If you possess [CBD] without a prescription, you have broken the law.” He added, “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.”

Controversy Among Medical Marijuana Users

Medical marijuana users in the area seem to have a different opinion on the matter. Teresa Long, a user of CBD oil for medical reasons, said, “I use CBD in my Vape, and you can’t even tell you’re using it but I have essential tremor and it helps me immensely.”

Rutherford County Sheriff's Office
Rutherford County Sheriff’s Office

Meanwhile, Smyrna Police Chief Kevin Arnold said that “If you look at some of the packaging I think the packaging is coming from another country (…) I don’t think they are even being made in this country, but somehow these individuals in Smyrna were able to get this product and were able to distribute it out to some of our convenience stores.”

The distributor of one of the products reached out to News 4 arguing that the product is entirely legal.

The president of the Tennessee Hemp Industries Association, Joe Kirkpatrick released a statement on the issue:

The label states that the CBD is derived from hemp. Perhaps, it should be more specific and say “industrial hemp,” but the product is compliant. Unless law enforcement can prove beyond a reasonable doubt that this CBD was derived from a marijuana source rather than an industrial hemp source, they are in clear violation of the law, and the victims of this action should be entitled to petition for any economic and punitive damages applicable under the law.

The law is evident that an ingestible or topical industrial hemp derived products are legal as long as the product contains less than 0.3% THC. It is not clear from the labeling whether the product contains CBD isolate or full spectrum extract, but both are legal under Tennessee law.

The TNHIA wants all products in Tennessee to be compliant and provide accurate sourcing data which would be easily achieved by a QR code on the labeling which would describe the source of the genetics, the farm and any third party certificates of analysis that exist as a result of batch testing.”

Court hearings are pending, according to the Sheriff’s office. According to Daily News Journal, 23 stores in total were affected by the raid. The site has a full listing of every store affected by the raid.

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