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Rutherford County authorities armed with court orders padlocked 23 stores Monday and starting rounding up 21 people indicted for allegedly selling candies containing a marijuana derivative.

Dubbed “Operation Candy Crush,” officers hit stores deemed a “public nuisance” in the unincorporated county, Murfreesboro, Smyrna and La Vergne where undercover detectives from Rutherford County Sheriff’s Office and Smyrna Police bought products containing cannabidiol, also called CBD, and other synthetic drugs.

Authorities said the cannabidiol is being sold in liquid form in vapors, gummy bears, gummy worms and other items resembling candy.

“We had information that came into us from parents that it was going on. And this is one of the things I think that we all want to say to the parents: We’d like to inform parents to be aware of what your children are bringing home,” said Rutherford County Sheriff Mike Fitzhugh, who is seeking a four-year term later this year, during a press conference outside Vapesboro, one of the busted stores on Middle Tennessee Boulevard.

Fitzhugh acknowledged the cannabidiol is an illegal drug except in medical situations, and he pointed out a prescription is required for its use.

District Attorney General Jennings Jones said the items seized had been defined as Schedule 6 controlled substances by the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation.

The sheriff’s office issued a release stating the items seized cost anywhere from $7 to $70 and are advertised as mood enhancers and mood relaxers marketed with drawings of marijuana leaves.

Yet the Tennessee Legislature has passed a law in the past couple of years allowing people with prescriptions to obtain cannabidiol from out-of-state companies for medical purposes. The law is narrowly tailored for young children suffering from epilepsy.

According to WebMD, people take CBD by mouth for anxiety, bipolar disorder, epilepsy, multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s disease and schizophrenia.

Efforts are under way in the Legislature this year to legalize medical marijuana, which would have no THC or very small amounts of the psychoactive part of marijuana, for use by patients to control pain.

The district attorney, however, said the TBI and Circuit Court Judge Royce Taylor agreed the items seized Monday are illegal substances. The stores will stay closed until the judge decides they can reopen, according to Jones.

“If you possess this without a prescription you have broken the law,” Jones said. “If you’re not a pharmacy selling it to someone with a prescription for it, you’ve broken the law.”

Local agencies were helped by TBI, the FBI and Drug Enforcement Administration to serve search warrants on the stores Monday just before noon and padlock them.

The sheriff’s office statement said some of the products contain synthetic drugs that have caused two deaths nationwide. It points out the products aren’t regulated, so people don’t know what they’re consuming.

Smyrna Police Chief Kevin Arnold said he asked his narcotics detectives to check local stores this summer after he heard about the matter at a TBI training.

“In one store, one of our agents walked into the store and said, ‘Hey, do you have any CBD gummies?’ and immediately the clerk went straight to it,” Arnold said. “So again, this is not some obscure product that is sitting on the shelf that they don’t know anything about. They know it’s there and they what the purpose for it is.”

Arnold contended people use the stuff to “get high.” Queried about the matter, Arnold said people wouldn’t be using it if it didn’t make them high. He also said local law enforcement would padlock the doors on Walmart if it is selling the products and the judge approves.

Markets padlocked are:

Rutherford County: Last Stop Market, 6858 Lascassas Pike

Murfreesboro: Vapesboro, Middle Tennessee Boulevard, Stop-N-Go 1624B New Salem Highway, Stop-N-Shop 490 Andrews Drive, Enchanted Planet 109 East Lytle St., T&B Tobacco & Beer 5524 NW Broad St., Quick Stop Discount Tobacco and Beer 1722 S. Rutherford Blvd., 99 Cents Discount Tobacco 3325 Memorial Blvd., Kaleidoscope 3324 Memorial Blvd., Y&H Discount Tobacco and Beer 2075 Lascassas Pike, A&M Tobacco & Beer 2075 Lascassas Pike, Kaleidoscope 2992 S. Church St., Magical Vapors 517 W. Main St.

Smyrna: Kwik Sak 1219 Hazelwood Drive, TN Vape & Smoke 901 Rock Springs Road, Stop & Shop Tobacco & Beer 901 Rock Springs Road, One Stop Shop Tobacco & Beer 1872 Almaville Road, Magical Vapors 504 East Enon Springs Road, Cloud 9 105 Jefferson St.

La Vergne: Waldron Market 606 Waldron Road, Family Market Discount Tobacco and Beer 546 Waldron Road, Tobacco Brew & Chew 5104 Waldron Road, La Vergne Vapor 5234 Murfreesboro Road

Sam Stockard can be reached at sstockard44@gmail.com.

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