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Judge refuses to dismiss smoke shop owners’ suit against Kingsport, Bristol

January 4th, 2014 9:47 pm by Matthew Lane

Judge refuses to dismiss smoke shop owners’ suit against Kingsport, Bristol

A Kingsport police car and mobile command post sit on Center Street across from the Ultimate Smoke Shop in this file photo from Feb. 24, 2012. Photo by David Grace.

GREENEVILLE — Sullivan County has been dismissed from a federal lawsuit filed by four local smoke shop owners challenging local bans of synthetic drugs. Though some of the claims against Kingsport and Bristol have also been dismissed, a federal judge recently ruled the two cities would not be completely dismissed from the lawsuit.

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 in 2012 challenging local bans of synthetic drugs by the three governments.

The owners claim they sold a variety of products, including herbal incense and potpourri, not designed for human consumption and argue local law enforcement officials targeted their businesses through a “shake down” system, forcing them to temporarily close and suffer financial loss.

Kingsport, Bristol and Sullivan County filed motions to dismiss the lawsuit, stating the claims have become moot since Tennessee approved laws in April 2012 banning the sale and use of synthetic drugs. In addition, all three governments rescinded their respective bans on synthetic drugs.

Judge Leon Jordan ordered a show cause hearing in July 2012 for the plaintiff to show why the case should continue. The plaintiffs responded by saying they were also seeking damages from the governments while the ordinances were in effect.

For an expanded version of this article, please see Sunday's print edition or our expanded electronic edition.

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