A Rutherford County judge ruled on Friday that all the stores padlocked during law enforcement's "Operation Candy Crush" raid can now reopen.
Circuit Court Judge Royce Taylor mandated that keys and cash registers should be returned to the business owners of the 23 stores shuttered for selling products that contain cannabinoids, commonly known as CBD, to resume operations.
Sixteen of the defendants had arraignment hearings on Friday in front of Taylor. All 16 entered not guilty pleas.
A state law passed in 2017 legalized the sale of ingestible or topical products derived from hemp if they contain less than 0.3 percent THC.
However, a hearing will be held on March 19 to determine whether the product is legal or not.
CBD is a derivative of industrial hemp, not marijuana.
Although CBD products can contain traceable amounts of THC, a psychoactive chemical found in marijuana, legalized quantities contain far from enough THC for users to "get high."
Rutherford County law enforcement officials raided the 23 stores on Monday after Taylor entered an order to padlock the businesses for selling products containing cannabidiol, commonly referred to CBD, that distributors and local industry representatives argue are legal in Tennessee.
During a press conference on Monday, Rutherford County Sheriff Mike Fitzhugh said there were 21 people indicted for selling the products.
"The petition alleged these items being sold were laced with marijuana," said attorney Jim Todd, representing some of the business owners. "We believe that to be untrue. How could an owner know they're selling something illegal if there's nothing in the code to say it's illegal?"
Todd's comments drew applause from many in a courtroom made up of business owners charged in the case.
"For them to be arrested, the state has to show that they knew this was a controlled substance and they sold it," Todd said in Rutherford County court Friday. "They failed."
Attorney John Zimmerman argued for the state that lab testing determined the products to be illegal. He said the products are designed to mimic other candies.
"When the chemists say that products are being sold that are controlled substances, they have the duty to act and bring it to the judge," he said.
For now, the business owners still do not have the money seized in this week's raid, and the stores cannot sell the products in question.
Those entering not-guilty pleas on Friday were Louis Berbert, Ehab Ezat Malaty, Stacey Hamilton, Fredrick Sublett, Samy Agly, Neven E. Mansour, Mary Ruth Hamilton, Michael A. Marcous, George A. Hanna, Gina Marie Ritter, Scott Ritter, Ayoob M. Ayoob, Alaa Mankarious, Marian G. Tadrous, Eskander G. Eskander, Margret A. Fouad and James Rieves.
The businesses padlocked were Lascassas: Last Stop Market, 6858 Lascassas Pike; Murfreesboro: Vapesboro. 1675 Middle Tennessee Blvd., Stop-N-Go, 1624B New Salem Highway, Stop-N-Shop, 490 St. Andrews Dr., Enchanted Planet, 109 E. Lytle St., T&B Tobacco & Beer, 5524 NW Broad St., Quick Stop Discount Tobacco and Beer, 1722 S. Rutherford Blvd., 99 Cents Discount Tobacco, 3325 Memorial Blvd., Kaleidoscope, 3325 Memorial Blvd., Y&H Discount Tobacco and Beer, 2075 Lascassas Pike, A&M Tobacco & Beer, 2075 Lascassas Pike; Kaleidoscope, 2992 S. Church St., Magical Vapors, 517 W. Main St. Smyrna: Kwik Sak, 1219 Hazelwood Dr., TN Vape & Smoke, 901 Rock Springs Rd., Stop & Shop Tobacco & Beer, 901 Rock Springs Rd., One Stop Shop Tobacco & Beer, 1872 Almaville Rd., Magical Vapors, 505 E. Enon Springs Rd., Cloud 9, 105 Jefferson St. La Vergne: Waldron Market, 606 Waldron Rd., Family Market Discount Tobacco and Beer, 546 Waldron Rd., Tobacco Brew & Chew, 5104 Waldron Rd., La Vergne Vapor, 5234 Murfreesboro Rd.
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