On Wednesday, the Camden Police Department arrested two local business owners, Jesse Hooks of Star Fire Smoke Shop and Michael Jones of High Notes, on charges of possession of a Schedule IV controlled substance Schedule with purpose to deliver.
"I've had complaints about why we allow these types of businesses. So I did ask (Captain of the CPD's Narcotics Unit) John Voss to look into the legality of having these types of stores," CPD Chief Boyd Woody said.
"I just want to reassure the people of Camden, it's not something we just went out and arbitrarily did. We did make controlled purchases and we're getting assistance."
Woody said samples of products obtained from both stores were tested at the State Crime Lab in Little Rock and tested above the acceptable limit of THC.
"There's a fine line with what is legal in Arkansas and what's not yet," Woody said.
"For me, I want to make sure that the public is safe. I think if you go into a retail store to buy a product, that product needs to be safe and you need to know what you are buying," he said.
A press release from Voss states that the department had been contacted by local residents concerned that the High Notes and Star Fire Smoke Shops were selling marijuana after seeing advertisements promoting "recreational THC, Delta 8 and 'No Medical Card Needed'."
Delta 8 is a pyschoative compound found in the cannabis plant, from which marijuana is derived. According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, Delta 8 is traditionally used in hemp or CBD products, whereas Delta 9 is the primary compound in THC -- the primary cannabinoid in marijuana -- products.
Voss's press release states that the store owners claimed to have
"I began an investigation into the activities concerning the items this store was openly selling to the public without a license. The store owners were claiming the items they were selling were less than 3 percent TCH and were legal in the state of Arkansas and had proper documentation," Voss's release states. "I spoke with a source who explained to me any person in possession of Hemp material (cannabis plant) needs a license, and if the store does not have the license the store's owner is in violation of State Law ACA 2-15-514. The Arkansas Hemp Protection Act of 2021."
According to the law Voss cited in the release, sellers of industiral hemp must have proper licensing or a bill of lading, demonstrating that the hemp was legally imported or otherwise legally present in the state under applicable state and federal laws.
Arkansas state law states that cannabis producs less than 3% THC are considered hemp products and products of 4% or more are considered marijuana, a Schedule IV narcotic.
Officers conducting a controlled purchase of the products using a confidential informant, according to police.
"We purchased a package of cannabis material from both stores. Both owners told the buyer the items he purchased would get him high," Voss's release states.
Voss said the products purchased were tested for THC, and results showed that both stores' products tested for 6% THC, "which made the items purchased from the stores marijuana."
"During my investigation it appears the stores are selling a controlled substance by purchasing marijuana items claiming to be in compliance with state law," Voss's release states. "The stores are repackaging the items with their own labels claiming 3% or less THC."
On Wednesday, the Camden Police Department conducted a search warrant at both stores, where investigators allegedly located numerious containers containing substances they believed to be marijuana. The substances they found weighed between 4 ounces and 25 pounds, police said.
"I understand the 'Don't you people have something better to do than deal with low level marijuana'. We deal with all of it," Woody said. "It's not that we aren't doing our other jobs too; we're also going to deal with low level marijuana, because it's on a bigger scale because it involves store fronts."
Woody also said he considered the issue a matter of public safety.
Woody said that Hooks and Jones were released on signature bonds during their respective first appearances.