A Herman business has been shut down after the owners, manager and an employee were arrested Tuesday for illegally distributing marijuana products.
DJ's Vapes, 408 Main St., was the target of a month-long investigation by the Washington County Sheriff's Office. The investigation centered around the sales and distribution of narcotics, namely items containing cannabidiol, also known as “CBD,” which is a controlled substance according to Nebraska state statute.
“The county attorney's office and the Washington County Sheriff want to make it clear that items containing CBD are not legal to possess, sell or distribute in the state of Nebraska, regardless of individual assertions, internet assertions or packaging statements,” Washington County Attorney Scott Vander Schaaf said. “To those people who continue to possess or purchase these items, they are on notice that we will enforce the laws of the state of Nebraska and prosecute those individuals to the fullest extent of the law.”
Sheriff's deputies executed arrest warrants just after 7 p.m. Tuesday.
DJ's Vapes co-owners Edward L. Hossner, 51, and Donna R. Johnson, 49, both of Kennard, are charged with conspiracy, a Class IIA felony. Bond for Hossner and Johnson is set at $25,000 or 10 percent.
Store manager Deborah S. Archer, 51, of Blair is charged with two counts of possession of a controlled substance with intent to deliver, a Class IIA felony; and conspiracy. Archer's bond is $50,000 or 10 percent.
Employee Cory L. Russell, 28, of Herman is charged with possession of a controlled substance with intent to deliver and conspiracy. Russell's bond is set at $75,000 or 10 percent.
Deputies seized numerous items from the business, including inventory, money and computers. Items containing CBDs that were allegedly being sold include pills, edible gummies, oils, lotions and creams.
Deputies had received several reports that both adults and minors were purchasing the items from the store. Deputies also learned the store was advertising the products through leaflets and other forms of advertisements.
“There was concern in the community as to whether or not these items were available and legal in the state of Nebraska,” Vander Schaaf said. “Based upon that information, detectives started their investigation.”
Vander Schaaf said detectives were awaiting search warrants to search the computers seized from the business. Additional arrests or charges may be filed as the investigation continues, he said.
In September, the county attorney's office received a notice from the Nebraska Attorney General's Office that there may be possible sales of CBD items throughout the state.
CBDs are a Schedule I drug. There are only two exceptions to possess these items: one is to be a participant in a study by the University of Nebraska Medical Center or if it is approved by the Federal Drug Administration (FDA).
“The attorney general informed us and we're not aware of any uses in the state under those two exceptions for CBDs.”
DJ's Vapes opened Oct. 1, 2016.
According to an article published in the Oct. 18, 2016, Washington County Pilot-Tribune, Archer called the store Herman's “hometown, one-stop shop.” The store was to stock about 30 vaping juices, while also selling tobacco, smoking supplies, snacks and soda.
The store also sold “glassware” — filtration devices usually used for smoking tobacco, cannabis and other herbal substances.
Bongs, pipes and similar devices can be used to smoke tobacco and other legal substances. These items become “drug paraphernalia” if they are used illegally.