Tennessee Police raid vape shops over rumours about CBD

By Leo Forfar

On February 12, 23 stores in Rutherford, Tennessee were raided, shut down and padlocked in a sudden crackdown of products containing CBD. The venture was dubbed Operation Candy Crush and consisted of officers from the Rutherford County Sheriff’s Office, Murfreesboro, Smyrna and La Vergne police departments. Officers working for the FBI, DEA and Tennessee Bureau of Investigation (TBI) were also present, with all parties acting on a court order issued by Circuit Court Judge Royce Taylor.

Controversy arose when it was revealed that these products were derived from hemp. Many products derived from hemp are legal for purchase and use in all 50 states. The subsequent press conference – held outside closed vape shop Vapesboro – descended into a farcical display and a perfect demonstration of what critics of excess vaping regulation have warned against.

A flustered, visibly agitated group of police chiefs from the named departments took questions from bewildered reporters. Opening statements revealed that the initial evidence gathering efforts were prompted by concerns from local parents who worried that CBD-laced sweets – which it’s claimed resembled gummy bears – were being marketed to children.

An attempted justification of these raids came via Rutherford County Sheriff Mike Fitzhugh, who described CBD as, “an illegal drug, a synthetic drug,” which is “a derivative of marijuana.” The police did not provide any evidence that children were purchasing CBD products in any capacity.

The highlight came when an attending journalist pointed out that none of the seized products contained Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) countering a claim from Smyrna chief Kevin Arnold that CBD is, “used to get high,” and can’t be consumed without a prescription.

When the reporter revealed that it is legal without prescription and asked if they were going to raid Walmart which also a stocks CBD next, Arnold said “yes,” and that he had no idea if the contraband contained THC.

This embarrassing misadventure did not go unchallenged after the conference, prompting a condemnatory response from numerous outlets, including an email written by the President of the Tennessee Hemp Industries Association, Joe Kirkpatrick, who opened with the following statement:

“Unless the Rutherford County Sheriff’s Department and the Murfreesboro, Smyrna, and La Vergne municipal law enforcement investigators can prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the CBD products were derived from a ‘marijuana’ source rather than an ‘industrial hemp’ source, they are in clear contravention of the law allowing the growth, processing, blending, and marketing of such products and the victims of this action should be entitled to petition for any economic and/or punitive damages applicable under the law.”

Kirkpatrick also reminded readers that both CBD isolate and full-spectrum extract are legal under Tennessee law. The legal backlash is ongoing and further developments are expected.

In addition to serving as an undeniable display of excessive policing sprouting from misinformation, this is being taken by vapers and advocates as an unnerving development and possible glimpse of what could happen next. Like vaping itself, CBD is slowly gaining mainstream acceptance as scaremongering stories about the substance are proved wrong and their benefits are proved right.