Jamie Gaines, general manager of Poor Boys Smoke Shop on Delaware Avenue, spent the early part of this week returning vapor juices to the shelf of the store. Last year, law enforcement officials raided the store and took vapor juices they said contained illegal substances. Friday, the juices were returned to the store owner.
(Journal-Tribune photo by Mac Cordell)
No charges filed; product returned from 2016 raid
Last month, officials at Poor Boys Smoke learned they would be getting their juice back.
On Friday, the last of the vapor juice, seized as part of a June 2016 raid, was returned to the storeowner.
“I really don’t know why it was done like this,” Jamie Gaines, general manager of Poor Boys Smoke Shop, said.
Now store officials say they are working to clear up the “false perception” created by the raid and the hype surrounding it.
“We are not a head shop (that sells drug paraphernalia),” said Gaines. “We do not cater to that crowd. We are a vape (vapor) shop. We are about getting people off cigarettes and getting people to live happier, healthier lives.”
Christy Neal, owner of the shop, started making vapor juices at a store in Marysville more than five years ago. In January 2014, Neal and her husband, Tom Neal, opened the Poor Boys Smoke Shop on Delaware Avenue. They make and sell dozens of flavors of juice for vaporizers, which have become a popular alternative to cigarettes. Some of the flavors made locally contain Cannabidiol or CBD, made from hemp plants. The shop ships the oils to stores and individuals around the country.
“We did the research,” Gaines said. “We had our attorney do the research before we even started selling this.”
In June 2016, members of the Multi-Agency Drug Enforcement (M.A.D.E.) Task Force, the Union County Sheriff’s Office, the Marysville Division of Police, the Warren County Drug Task Force, and the Ohio Bureau of Identification and Investigation (BCI&I) served a search warrant at the vapor shop, 893 Delaware Ave., Marysville.
Gaines said he and the storeowners were “befuddled” when law enforcement officials raided the store.
Union County Sheriff Jamie Patton said an investigation by the Warren County agency led officials to the Poor Boys Smoke
At the time of the raid, detectives from the task force seized 18 bottles of the vape juice.
“They seized all of our bottles,” said Gaines. “They didn’t shut us down. They just made the customers that were in there leave the store. We were able to continue to do business.”
After serving the local search warrant and gathering evidence, members of the Union County Sheriff’s Office and Ohio BCI&I searched a companion business on U.S. 42 in London, just off I-70.
Investigators, in conjunction with the Madison County Major Crimes Task Force, seized 122 bottles of the juice rom the London location.
Law enforcement officials said the seized liquid could equate to more than 14,000 individual doses, valued between $282,520 – $706,300.
“The liquid is suspected to be a liquid form of Cannabidiol, which is classified as a Schedule I controlled substance in the State of Ohio,” Patton wrote in a release following the search warrant execution.
Gaines said that isn’t true and he tried to tell investigators. In fact a sign in the shop explains the law and the legality of the products in the store.
“I researched the topic of CBD oil (Cannibidiol) and found it to be legal as long as it is derived from industrial hemp plants or industrial hemp oil,” Attorney Matthew Langhals wrote in a letter that hangs in the store.
The attorney cited the case and legal precedent for his opinion.
“The Federal Court determined that products made from industrial hemp (mostly grown in Canada and Europe) did not fall under the definition of a Schedule 1 drug pursuant to the Controlled Substance Act,” Langhals wrote. “Why? Because those products either contain trace amounts of THC, or no THC at all.”
Langhals wrote that marijuana and synthetic marijuana contain THC.
He explained, “It’s the THC which produces the psychoactive effects deemed to be illegal under the Controlled Substances Act. Since industrial hemp plants and industrial hemp oil carry no psychoactive effects, the Federal Courts found that products made from industrial hemp were legal.”
Union County Prosecutor Dave Phillips said that case came from a different federal district and added, “we are talking about state law. Federal law does not apply to state law.”
Phillips said under state law, “The issue really is, where does it come from?’”
State law has a confusing definition of what parts of the hemp plant are legal and which are not.
Phillips said the seized juices were sent to a state certified laboratory for testing and analysis. He said the report indicated the oils were a Schedule 1 controlled substance under Ohio law. He said the report did not indicate whether the oil included any THC or not, nor did it indicate whether the oil came from a legal part of the hemp plant or a prohibited portion.
“The issue is, ‘What is the origin of the oil?’ and you just can’t tell from the report,” Phillips said.
He said that even with the report indicating the juices contained a Schedule 1 controlled substance, the report would have been confusing and difficult for a jury to determine if the juice was illegal or to assign guilt to the makers.
“To say it is perfectly legal may not be accurate but it certainly is, in my opinion, a gray area and on a criminal prosecution, we don’t want to prosecute a grey area,” Phillips said.
He said he spoke with members of the task force. He said it was a collaborative decision not to bring the case forward for formal consideration or prosecution and to return the vapor juices to the store.
Gaines said that while investigators had their products, the store could not sell them or any like them.
“Think of the money wasted on the investigation and the lost sales tax dollars (over the last year),” said Gaines.
He said the store was not doing anything illegal and is glad to have his products back on the shelves.
“What we were doing was legal and was from the very beginning,” said Gaines. “We want people to know that and just want our wrong righted.”
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