Twenty-three stores in Rutherford County, Tennessee were padlocked by local law enforcement for allegedly selling illegal marijuana products containing CBD.
Detectives from the Smyrna, Murfreesboro, and LaVergne police departments in coordination with the county’s sheriff’s office shut down a total of 23 storefronts and arrested 21 individuals in the raids.
Sheriff Mike Fitzhugh and Smyrna Police Chief Kevin Arnold said they opened an investigation into the shops after getting complaints from parents last year.
Undercover agents purchased CBD products as part of a sting that police called “Operation Candy Crush.”
The CBD candies came in the form of gummy bears, gummy worms, and other familiar candy products. The products were priced from $7 to $70.
“We feel these stores are marketing these items toward minors,” said Fitzhugh according to WKRN.com. “These items can commonly be confused by a child as candy and are illegal.”
But those seeking relief and marijuana advocacy groups were not pleased with the move by law enforcement.
“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.” Teresa Long, who stopped by one of the closed stores, said. It is unclear if she gets the vape oil from one of these shops.
In a statement from the Tennessee Hemp Industries Association, president Joe Kirkpatrick said:
“Medical patients and advocacy groups were critical of the move by law enforcement.”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/or punitive damages applicable under the law.”
This could be where the real legal debate is. While many vendors sell and ship industrial hemp derived CBD products across the country, since industrialized hemp is legal under federal law, hemp derived CBD may still be outlawed.
The Controlled Substance Act’s (CSA) definition of what is marijuana reads:
“The term ‘marihuana’ means all parts of the plant Cannabis sativa L., whether growing or not; the seeds thereof; the resin extracted from any part of such plant; and every compound, manufacture, salt, derivative, mixture, or preparation of such plant, its seeds, or resins; but shall not include the mature stalks of such plant, fiber produced from such stalks, oil or cake made from the seeds of such plant, any other compound, manufacture, salt, derivative, mixture, or preparation of such mature stalks (except the resin extracted therefrom), fiber, oil, or cake, or the sterilized seed of such plant which is incapable of germination.”
According to an article by Russ Belville, host at Cannabis Radio and former Executive Director at Portland NORML, the Drug Enforcement Agency is skeptical that CBD can actually be extracted from the parts of the plant that are not listed in its definition of marijuana.
“According to the scientific literature, cannabinoids are not found in the parts of the cannabis plant that are excluded from the CSA definition of marijuana ,except for trace amounts (typically, only parts per million) that may be found where small quantities of resin [#4] adhere to the surface of seeds and mature stalk. Thus, based on the scientific literature, it is not practical to produce extracts that contain more than trace amounts of cannabinoids using only the parts of the cannabis plant that are excluded from the CSA definition of marijuana, such as oil from the seeds,” according to the CSA.
But Joshua D. Camp, a current board of directors member of the Tennessee Hemp Industries Association and CEO of LabCanna, a company that produces hemp derived CBD products, feels that despite the muddled federal policy, Tennessee law should have prevented the raids.
“In our state, industrial hemp is excluded from the state CSA, includes the entire plant, and under Public Chapter 369, all consumer products (including topical and ingestible products) containing derivatives of hemp and containing less than 0.3% THC are 100% legal. This law was not cited in the petitions to the court, and the judge was mislead,” Camp told mg.
Camp is serving as an expert witness in the cases relating to the Tennessee shop raids.
“Tennessee is one of the few states where this should not have been in the realm of possibility due to laws in place protecting industrial hemp derived products,” Camp continued.
A federal lawsuit being heard by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit last week is challenging federal policy on CBD and could provide clarity on the legality of CBD products.
Although there needs to be clarity moving forward on the legality of CBD products, it does seem that law enforcement may have bigger fish to fry. CBD without THC produces little to no psychedelic effect.
The situation in Tennessee highlights the need for marijuana reform. Safe access to medicine should be a right for patients and it is long past time to guarantee this. But unregulated products in tobacco shops and liquor stores may not be the answer. Legal clarity on both the state and federal levels is necessary to ensure that safe products are being distributed to those in need of relief.
This post has been updated to reflect the comments by Joshua D. Camp.