The strange, suspenseful saga of ‘Operation Candy Crush’ has ended after charges were dropped by prosecutors. Rutherford County, Tennessee District Jennings J. Jones announced the decision in a press release February 28. Jones has filed a motion with the court to dismiss all charges.
Operation Candy Crush received national news attention last month. Deputies from the Rutherford County Sherrif’s Office raided 23 stores in the county on February 12. Deputies seized cash, gummy candies, and vape cartridges containing the cannabinoid CBD in the raids. Officers padlocked the stores, and they remained closed for four days. The DA’s office had filed petitions to declare the businesses public nuisances and closed permanently.
Officials also charged 21 store owners with felony drug selling charges. Jones dropped the charges after labs at the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation (TBI) reported that they could not determine the source of the CBD. The DA ended the actions against the stores, as well.
Is It Hemp? Or Marijuana?
“Chemists from the TBI have now informed my office that they cannot determine whether the cannabidiol detected on these products came from a hemp plant or marijuana plant,” the release said.
“TBI is no longer willing to testify that this is a Schedule VI substance. We have no choice but to dismiss,” Jones told local media.
Originally, Jones expressed great confidence in the case.
“If you possess this without a prescription, you have broken the law,” Jones said at a press conference after the raids.
“If you are selling this without a prescription or if you’re not a pharmacy selling it to someone with a prescription for it, you have broken the law.”
Farmers can legally grow hemp in Tennessee under a state pilot program.
Insult to Injury
In another twist in the case, authorities could be held responsible for losses at one of the stores. A thief broke into the Last Stop Market during the time it was under order to remain closed.
Store clerk Jacklyn Ryder told a local TV news station she was working when the store was raided. Deputies denied her request to set the store’s alarm before they left, she says.
“Our store was left unalarmed for four days while we were closed down because of this,” said Ryder.
The thief stole more than $600 from a change machine and some beer. The burglar pried open the store’s back door to gain entry. The door received extensive damage in the break-in. She said the store’s owner may file suit, a sentiment she agrees with.
“I feel not only him. I feel like every store that suffered should file a lawsuit because they have families too,” Ryder said. “I went four days, that’s about $400 out of my check that I don’t have because of some allegation that’s not true.”
Final Hit: The Strange, Suspenseful Saga of ‘Operation Candy Crush’ Has Ended
Other store owners say that they are also planning a civil suit in response to the raids and store closures. Throughout their ordeal, the businesspeople had stuck together, pledging not to plea bargain.
“This has caused an enormous cost to all the store owners,” store owner Stacey Hamilton said. “I don’t think they’ll apologize in nearly as public a way as they condemned us as drug dealers.”