Tennessee police shut down and padlocked the doors of 23 stores Monday for illegally selling CBD (cannabidiol) products. Several vape shops were among the retailers.
The raids took place in and around Murfreesboro, in Rutherford County. According to NewsChannel5, 21 employees at the stores were indicted as part of what authorities are calling “Operation Candy Crush.” The investigation began after complaints from parents.
Undercover investigators made purchases at the stores, mostly of gummy bear-type candies. The raids were carried out by the Rutherford County Sheriff’s Department, along with local police, the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation, and also the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI).
The list of stores that were shut down includes at least six that appear to be vape shops. It’s unclear if the vape shops were also selling CBD candies or just CBD-based e-liquid. In either case, selling CBD without a prescription is illegal in Tennessee.
Local news reports consistently refer to the stores selling “dangerous synthetic drugs.” The NewsChannel5 story says, “According to investigators, some of the products contain synthetic drugs linked to two deaths in the U.S.”
It’s not known if some of the stores may have been selling other drugs, like the synthetics usually known as Spice or K2. CBD has not caused any known deaths, but Spice has been linked to overdoses and deaths. It is frequently described in news stories in lurid terms, like the “zombie drug.”
Cannabidiol (CBD) is not a synthetic. Rather, it is a non-psychoactive compound found in cannabis plants. Unlike its cannabinoid cousin THC, CBD does not produce a euphoric effect or “high.” CBD can be extracted from marijuana, but usually comes from the industrial hemp plant, which is cannabis but has been selectively bred to eliminate most of its THC content.
However, possession of CBD is illegal in Tennessee without a prescription, and only authorized for those with “ intractable seizures.” Further, it can only be sold through a pharmacy. Last month, legislation was introduced to legalize CBD sales and possession in the state, but that bill hasn’t gone anywhere yet.