GREENEVILLE — Since the state of Tennessee passed legislation banning synthetic drugs, Kingsport, Bristol and Sullivan County say a federal lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of the local bans has become moot.
Which is why the three governments are seeking once again to have the federal case dismissed.
Earlier this year, Ultimate Smoke of Kingsport, Cloud 9 Emporium of Bristol, and White Cloud Emporium and Hard Packs — both in Sullivan County — filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court in Greeneville challenging local bans of synthetic drugs by the three governments.
The bans were approved in late 2011 in response to the growing number of people using synthetic marijuana and so-called “bath salts” in the Tri-Cities.
Kingsport, Bristol and Sullivan County filed motions to dismiss the lawsuit earlier this year and more recently made a renewed attempt for dismissal, stating that the case has become moot since Tennessee approved laws in April and May banning the sale and use of synthetic drugs.
In addition, Kingsport and Sullivan County have rescinded their respective bans on synthetic drugs.
As a result of these motions, Judge Leon Jordan ordered a show cause hearing for July 20, asking the smoke shop owners to show why the case should not be dismissed.
In a brief filed that day, the smoke shop owners claim the governments’ argument for dismissal is “nothing more than a hasty misconception that improperly shifts the focus away from other aspects of the (lawsuit).”
The brief further states that the lawsuit contains nine separate causes of action and seeks both injunctive relief and compensation for damages caused by Kingsport, Bristol and Sullivan County for any violations that allegedly occurred while the local bans were in effect.
In the lawsuit, the smoke shop owners allege multiple constitutional violations by the defendants, including due process, interference with private contracts, equal protection and the Commerce Clause. The lawsuit claims the bans are vague and overly broad and provide no ascertainable standard for determining what substances are actually banned.
The smoke shop owners note their stores were raided and property seized by local law enforcement agencies prior to the enactment of the state laws and that the matter is still under investigation and no indictments have been issued.