Judge rules state may not destroy seized merchandise from ‘The Friendly Market’

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NORMAN, Okla. - A judge handed a tobacco shop a victory Wednesday morning, ruling the state may not destroy merchandise seized in the past.

In 2015, Norman police raided ‘The Friendly Market,’ claiming the glass pipes that were sold in the store were considered drug paraphernalia.

In addition to seizing merchandise, store owners said officers seized thousands of dollars from the business.

“Any material pipes that were in this store were paraphernalia regardless of the intent of the user, which is just a complete misreading of the statute,”  defense attorney Blake Lynch told NewsChannel 4 in 2016.

Following the raid, charges were filed against several employees and the owners of the business.

The first trial against a clerk ended in a mistrial, in favor of The Friendly Market.

In May, Robert Cox and Stephen Holman were found not guilty on charges related to selling drug paraphernalia.

Last month, Cleveland County District Attorney Greg Mashburn said he will not pursue the case any further.

Instead, the state dismissed all charges in the case.

However, Cleveland County District Attorney Greg Mashburn sought to hold on to glass pipes, bongs and other items from The Friendly Market because he said returning them would be illegal.

Mashburn's office made its claims in a memo written to Judge Steve Stice, even after the courts found The Friendly Market's owners not guilty of selling drug paraphernalia.

"While it could certainly be argued that the items could be used to smoke other legitimate substances, such as tobacco, the primary and intended design of these items is for the consumption of controlled substances," wrote Assistant District Attorney Heather Darby. "Just like actual marijuana, the property for which (The Friendly Market) seeks return is illegal contraband and is not any different than any item deemed illegal."

Attorneys for The Friendly Market celebrated a victory with "relief" Wednesday, for his clients who have been acquitted on multiple occasions.

"The state doesn’t destroy peoples’ things whenever they’re acquitted in any other case," said attorney Blake Lynch. "What makes them legal or illegal is what you intend to do with them. The state just continues to ignore that that is the law."

After years in the courts, Lynch said The Friendly Market is eager to reopen and prove once again there are other therapeutic, recreational and legal ways to use its products.

The store is planning to reopen, Lynch said.

The DA's office can still appeal the judge's decision in the next 10 days. The office had no comment Wednesday and would not say if it is considering an appeal.

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