Tennessee CBD retailers’ ‘Operation Candy Crush’ lawsuits moving forward

Three lawsuits filed by Tennessee CBD retailers against local authorities for closing their legal stores during a sting operation in 2018 will move forward, despite the defendants’ appeal to dismiss the allegations against them.

In the February 2018 “Operation Candy Crush” sting in Rutherford County, Tennessee, law enforcement officers padlocked 23 stores and charged 17 business owners with selling illegal drugs. The charges were eventually dropped and expunged, as hemp-derived products are legal in Tennessee.

A federal lawsuit filed in October 2018 by the 17 business owners alleges that law enforcement officials who carried out and approved the raids – Rutherford County sheriff Mike Fitzhugh, assistant district attorney John Zimmerman and district attorney general Jennings Jones – intentionally targeted small businesses and expected them to take a plea to reopen their businesses.

An amended complaint, filed in December 2018, said the defendants targeted the businesses because of their Egyptian heritage, as 12 of the 17 store owners charged during the raid are of Egyptian descent.

A district court judge denied motions by the defendants to dismiss the charges in March 2019.

In a ruling on Friday, the federal appeals judge said that the lawsuit, which stated the defendants were motivated by conspiracy to violate the plaintiffs’ constitutional rights, offered “very specific factual allegations” that the sheriff and assistant district attorney acted outside of their duties and pushed the case forward without probable cause, according to the Murfreesboro (Tennessee) Daily News Journal.

The ruling means that the defendants can’t claim immunity and have the case dismissed.

The lawsuit will proceed in a lower court, the retailers’ attorney said; however, a further hearing has yet not been set.