MURFREESBORO, Tenn. (WKRN) – The business owners who were busted as part of Operation Candy Crush for selling products allegedly containing an illegal drug, have vowed to stick together and fight the charges to the end.
News 2 has learned, the assistant district attorney in Rutherford County offered plea deals to all the business owners, but so far none of them has accepted.
The store owners said they’ve lost revenue, and many of their loyal customers refuse to shop at their stores since they are being accused of being drug dealers.
After being chained and padlocked for five days, 23 Rutherford County stores are now back in business, but with legal fees and lost revenue, it’s hitting them in the pocket.
“It has hurt our bottom line very much,” said Kaleidoscope Custom Vapor Lounge owner Stacey Hamilton. “We’re a very small business and we’ve spent now $50,000 total lost and spent $50,000.”
Some customers are still showing their support, but the stores have mainly been empty.
“It’s going to continue because people don’t want to come into our shops because we are accused of dealing drugs which is absolutely untrue,” Hamilton said.
The businesses are now working together, vowing not to accept any plea deals.
They feel they’ve done nothing wrong.
“I did my homework very well before I started selling hemp and CBD products. I just wished Rutherford County had done theirs as well,” Hamilton said.
Hamilton said the state made it seem like all the stores were selling gummy candies laced with CBD and marketing them to children, which is not the case.
She and her business partner sold Eco Caps, CBD Brand capsules and a CBD infused oil.
“All throughout this we were accused of selling gummy candies of which we never sold. Ever,” Hamilton said.
The Tennessee Bureau of Investigation never tested the oil, and a forensic report showed one of the capsules tested did contain cannabidoil, but doesn’t show what level of THC, if any.
“We were treated like hardened criminal, drug dealers, and we all are hard-working taxpaying members of society and we didn’t deserve to be treated this way,” said Hamilton.
Hamilton said she received lab reports on every single batch of hemp or CBD products that come into her two stores and made sure they were derived from hemp and not from marijuana.
Some of the owners told News 2, after both their civil and criminal cases play out in court, they will consider filing legal action against Rutherford County and local authorities.
“Right now, I want to get the charges dropped against us,” Hamilton said. “I think a civil suit is a possibility for a lot of the people that were targeted in this raid – unfairly targeted in this raid. All I can think about at the moment though is clearing my good name and the name of my business.”
Charges were dropped against a couple because a TBI forensic report showed no illegal drugs were found in their products they sold, and another business owner who sold his business in 2013, but was still charged.