Attorney Jim Todd speaks the press after Judge Royce Taylor gave his opinion after the arraignments on Friday Feb. 16, 2018. HELEN COMER/DNJ
After a judge said they could pick up their keys and cash registers, stores shuttered in the “Operation Candy Crush” raids were reopened to the public Friday.
Louis Berbert, owner of Enchanted Planet, put out the call on social media as soon as he knew he could reopen his doors. There were customers inside just minutes after he took off the padlock on the front door.
“I am incredibly excited about the store being back open again and that we’re here to serve the public again, after 25 years of good service, I am glad to continue offering that good service to my customers,” he said.
“It may be raining outside and it may be gray and dark, but it has been a beautiful day,” Berbert said.
Friends, family members, activists and fellow store owners were in the courtroom Friday.
Angie Seriana, who owns a small business but is not connected with the Rutherford County raids, was in the gallery to support fellow business owners.
“I am with all the people, they’re business owners, they are just trying to make a living for their families,” she said. “The police made it sound like this was actually on the counter between the M&Ms and the Snicker bars — it was not.”
Seriana said she decided to attend the hearing because “these people are innocent. Somebody needs to support them.”
She pulled similar products from her own shelves over concerns that she might be caught up in something similar.
“We should be able to depend on the packaging, the people that we get this information from at trade shows, they do the testing,” she said. “I stand behind these products, I know that they help people, they’re not being sold to children.”
Lawyers banding together
None of the defendants said they felt comfortable commenting on the criminal charges, as they remain pending.
“Obviously our clients are happy that the stores are open; that’s their livelihood,” one defense attorney, Jim Todd, said after the hearing. “We are hopeful that the legislature will resolved this issue before we have to have a final hearing on this because it is our client’s position unequivocally that they did not knowingly sell any illegal drugs, that these products are in fact legal, that they should be opened, their money returned and their criminal cases should be dismissed.”
After the hearings, clients and attorneys lingered in the hallway to discuss.
“All I can say is that there was a very good group of attorneys that kind of pooled together resources and started doing the research to put in the long hours and we feel confident in our position,” another defense attorney, Joshua T. Crain, said.
Not over yet
In the crowd was Tennessee Hemp Industries Association President Joe Kirkpatrick.
“Today was a huge victory for industrial hemp growers and manufacturers in Tennessee. His Honor swiftly saw the problem with the prosecution’s case and established that CBD derived from industrial hemp is in fact protected by state law,” he said. “He halted the injunction against the store owners and allowed them to go back to work.”
The activist was happy with today’s results, but says the fight is not over yet.
“The burden shall remain on the state to prove that the products seized are not compliant,” Kirkpatrick said. “The TNHIA does not support any synthetics or non-compliant products and support those being prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.”
Reach Mariah Timms at email@example.com or 615-278-5164 and on Twitter @MariahTimms.
Oringinal Article: http://www.dnj.com/story/news/2018/02/16/stores-reopen-after-operation-candy-crush-hearing-but-charges-still-active/347228002/