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MURFREESBORO, Tenn. (WKRN) – All criminal and civil charges against the store owners in Rutherford County part of Operation Candy Crush will be dismissed and their records wiped clean.
The Rutherford County District Attorney General’s office is pointing fingers at the TBI saying because lab tests showed the CBD products contained a controlled substance, they moved forward with getting indictments and an order to shut down the businesses.
The TBI is firing back.
“All criminal charges will be dismissed and records expunged,” said Cloud 9 Hemp owner Swain Rieves. “All public nuisance actions will be dismissed and all property seized under the court’s order will be returned.”
Those words are music to Swain Rieves’ ears.
“That is music to my ears, that’s what I’ve been waiting for,” Rieves said. “I’m innocent.”
Cloud 9 Hemp in Smyrna, is an online distributor of CBD Hemp products.
Back in September he says nearly $30,000 worth of CBD products were seized by police, and more when he was arrested during Operation Candy Crush.
“Obviously its a victory just not for me or the business owners, but it’s a victory for the industry that’s only out to help people,” Rieves said.
Cloud 9 Hemp only sells CBD based products, so even though his business is back open he can’t sell anything, until the judge signs the new order.
No income for two weeks has been stressful for his employees and family.
His wife is 16-weeks pregnant.
“She just hit her second trimester so you can image the stress she’s been under for the past several weeks, of course my kids,” Rieves said.
Rutherford County District Attorney General Jennings Jones issued a press release to the media announcing the dismissal of the charges, laying blame on the TBI.
“The District Atorney’s office initiated actions to enforce the law in this case because the TBI assured us that the items being sold at various businesses in Rutherford County were infused with illegal controlled substances,” the release stated. It is the duty of all law enforcement to prevent the sale of controlled substances.”
The TBI issued a response which said in part, “In this matter, it is inaccurate for the local stakeholders in these cases to assert they made decisions in this case unaware of the limits of our forensic work. The role of the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation in laboratory analysis is to objectively analyze submitted evidence. We make no determination of the legality of situations involving the evidence we examine, and, in fact, our Forensic Scientists are rarely aware of the circumstances involving the evidence submitted for analysis.
At Vapesboro, which served as the backdrop for the announcement of Candy Crush, the attorney for the owners says this all could have been avoided instead of sending officers in with masks, guns, and pad locks.
“There has been some wisdom in neighboring judicial districts where attorneys general have done things like communication instead of intimidation and they have received one hundred percent compliance for the cost of a postage stamp for the untold tens of thousands of dollars here in Rutherford County was unable to accomplish at the end of Candy Crush,” said attorney Kevin Latta.
The owners are glad this embarrassing ordeal will soon be behind them.
“It devastated several of our other businesses too, it really hurt us in the pocket and mentally,” owner Scotty Ritter said.
“When we first heard of the news we were super relieved, still with a little doubt because we were still scared,” owner Gina Ritter said.
News 2 has learned the order to dismiss these charges will be filed with the clerk’s office Thursday.
The other thing that has to be done is to figure out how much money was seized from each store so the proper amount can be returned to each store.
Judge Royce Taylor who is overseeing the case is on vacation and is expected to sign the lodging order next week officially dismissing all the charges.
Friday February 13, 1997 the original Enchanted Planet burned to the ground. Twenty one years later February 13, 2018 the owner was dealt another devastating blow.
Enchanted Planet owner Lewis Berbert said this store was first to start selling CBD products in Rutherford County.
“We’ve been here in Middle Tennessee for more than 25 years,” said Berbert.
All of a sudden his eclectic store was raided, padlock, and he was thrown in jail.
“I feel like the weight of the world has been taken off my shoulders,” Berbert said. “It is a hard thing to deal with when you’re faced with allegations of that magnitude.”
Two weeks of pure hell, now he’s relieved the charges are being dismissed.
“I’m glad and relieved that it has been cleared up, it has been a great confusion to the people, and I’m glad this was solved through education,” he said.
Berbert is one of 23 business owners targeted as part of Operation Candy Crush.
The TBI released a full statement.
In this matter, it is inaccurate for the local stakeholders in these cases to assert they made decisions in this case unaware of the limits of our forensic work.
The role of the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation in laboratory analysis is to objectively analyze submitted evidence. We make no determination of the legality of situations involving the evidence we examine, and, in fact, our Forensic Scientists are rarely aware of the circumstances involving the evidence submitted for analysis.
Our laboratory analysis can only determine relevant compounds, not the particular origin of those substances. So, in this matter, we are not able to determine whether the CBD in these cases originated from industrial hemp, illicit marijuana, or synthetic production. In fact, such a determination is beyond the capability of contemporary drug identification. Still, the identified CBD, as a derivative of marijuana, may be considered a Schedule VI substance under the Tennessee Code, which is why our agency reported it that way to the local law enforcement agency and District Attorney General.
In the midst of this process, we clearly explained – in detail – the limitations of our analysis to all stakeholders. We did so to ensure they fully knew that, though we could identify CBD, we were not able to identify its origin.
We also explained to them the nuance of the included schedule on our lab reports, which are provided as a courtesy. In this instance, we listed the schedule out of an abundance of caution because the sample could have met the standard for schedule as spelled out in the law. Local agencies and prosecutors – including those in Rutherford County – are well aware of that nuance.
During the recent news conference on these cases, General Jones acknowledged himself that a substance being identified as a particular schedule does not make it inherently illegal. The circumstances of the possession or transfer – as determined by the local law enforcement agency and interpreted by the District Attorney General – make something “illegal.”
Again, to be clear: TBI lab reports objectively determine the compound present, but in no way are statements of compound origin, circumstances of possession, or guilt or innocence. Though we identified the substance and the relevant schedule, we made no determination about the legality of the substance or the circumstance in Rutherford County. That was a decision solely made — as in all cases — by the local agency and District Attorney General.