AP NEWS

Drug charges dropped against Lawrence CBD store owner

November 15, 2019

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — Prosecutors have dropped felony drug charges against the owners of a Kansas CBD store for selling hemp flower, which looks and smells like marijuana but contains only trace amounts of THC, the compound that gives pot its high.

Douglas County District Attorney Charles Branson’s office said in a brief statement Thursday that charges against Annie Martin, her fiancé, Sean Lefler, and an employee of their Free State Collective store in Lawrence were dropped without prejudice — meaning they can be revived — “pending further review.” It offered no explanation.

Prosecutors had been scheduled to present their case against the couple on Friday.

Just weeks earlier, Branson announced his office would stop filing criminal cases for simple marijuana possession offenses, reports The Kansas City Star.

Martin, a former elementary school teacher who could have faced more than 17 years in prison if convicted, says she’s “relieved,” and that she believes the Kansas Bureau of Investigation, which twice raided the store, misunderstood the distinction between marijuana and hemp, which is a legal crop in the United States.

Martin said the case has cost her family upward of $100,000 in legal fees and that law enforcement seized equipment, inventory and cash.

“It’s been a complete and total nightmare,” she said. “I never in my wildest imagination would have thought this could turn into what it did.”

The store had lab reports from manufacturers showing their products contained only tiny amounts of THC. KBI documents showed some of the store’s products contained none at all. Other products were shown to contain some THC, but no testing was done to determine the actual percentage of THC, said Sarah Swain, the couple’s defense attorney.

Branson’s office declined to answer The Star’s questions in August about whether it distinguishes between marijuana and hemp in prosecuting cases. A representative said only that charging documents “reflect our position that marijuana was being sold at a CBD product store.” Those charging documents allege the pair possessed products containing more than a kilogram (2.2 pounds) of THC.

Lefler said the couple plans to close the Lawrence store this month and open a business in Kansas City, Missouri.

___

Information from: The Kansas City Star, http://www.kcstar.com