BREAKING NEWS: All Charges Dropped in TN “Candy Crush” CBD Operation

Charges were dropped today in “Operation Candy Crush”, ending a sorry chapter for law enforcement in Rutherford County, TN.

“Operation Candy Crush” by law enforcement in Rutherford County, TN, is officially crushed. The District Attorney’s office has voluntarily dismissed all charges, indicating that it cannot prove that the CBD contained in the seized products were from illicit marijuana or lawful hemp.

An interesting case of finger-pointing has ensued, in which the Rutherford County DA’s office (DA) blames the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation (TBI) for providing an inaccurate lab report. Meanwhile, the TBI blames the DA for not properly assessing the legality of the CBD that it identified in its lab reports. In reality, it appears that they both failed.

Apparently, TBI’s lab report indicated that the detected substance at issue was CBD, “a schedule 6 controlled substance”. (Under TN law, Schedule 6 is for unlawful marijuana.) However, a lab can only identify whether a certain substance is present in a sample and at what concentrations the substance is present. It cannot opine on a substance’s legal status if the substance is lawful under certain circumstances and unlawful under others, as with CBD. It can only report whether the substance is present. The DA’s office, clearly uninformed about CBD, industrial hemp, and the Source Rule, took the lab report at face value and failed to make an inquiry as to the source of the CBD found in the seized products to determine whether it was lawful or not.

As it turns out, I had a frustrating conversation with the chief prosecutor on the case a day after the bust. Employing a classic circular argument, he said that the lab report told him that the substance the TBI lab found was a schedule 6 unlawful substance. I asked him what that substance was. He said, “CBD”. I said that CBD was lawful- or not- based on its source and then inquired about the source. He said that he didn’t know, but that he was told by the TBI lab that it was a schedule 6 illegal substance so that’s why he was pressing criminal charges. I asked what the substance was, to which he replied “CBD”, and so on and so forth for a couple of rounds. It was clear that he had no idea about the Source Rule and was hiding behind a lab report, despite the fact that he was the lawyer charged with a duty of determining whether the CBD was lawful or not.

In any event, this is a good end to a sorry chapter for law enforcement in Rutherford County, TN. I hope that this episode will serve as an educational lesson to law enforcement in states with industrial hemp laws such as North Carolina and North Dakota, both of which are currently dealing with CBD busts. It’s just too bad that this lesson had to occur on the backs of law abiding business owners.

Click here for a link to the local story on News 5. It’s worth reading just for the finger-pointing.

Rod Kight is a lawyer based in Asheville, NC. He is licensed in North Carolina and Oregon and represents legal cannabis businesses. You can contact him by clicking here. 


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