All charges against Essential Hemp owner Hector Sanchez have been dismissed, according to paperwork filed with Guilford County District Court on Dec. 17.

Sanchez was charged and arrested on Oct. 25, more than a month after Greensboro police seized more than $30,000 worth of product from his shop. As previously reported by Triad City Beat, a search warrant by Greensboro Police Detective DS Rake was executed in August 2021 and several Delta-8 THC products, which are legal in NC and sold widely across the state in various stores, were confiscated from Essential Hemp. The dismissal from Dec. 27 noted that the “officer had probable cause bases for charge based on information gained from investigation” but that there was insufficient evidence to warrant prosecution because Sanchez and his partner, Kattya Castellon, “purchased drugs from a distributor who represented items as being lawful in NC and therefore it appears the defendant did not knowingly possess [sic].”

“It’s great that I have don’t have any charges pending against me, but I don’t think I ever should have,” Sanchez told TCB in call on Wednesday. “There was no reason for the assistant district attorney to write in there that, ‘Although there was probable cause…’ I think he only wrote that in there to make GPD look better or so GPD doesn’t look as bad. That’s exactly how I felt about it.”

Sanchez noted that he and his legal team never received the tests that the GPD did that showed that the products he was selling were illegal.

“I personally do not feel that they have any documents that would show anything illegal was done, knowingly or unknowingly,” Sanchez said. “I’m 99.99 percent sure that they have anything that points that we did anything illegal…. It’s a negative mark on Greensboro police department’s credibility.”

Goods that were confiscated by GPD that were returned to Essential Hemp on Oct. 26. (photo by Sayaka Matsuoka)

Julie Wall, one of the attorneys who represented Sanchez, said that while the dismissal of the charges was good news, it was entirely expected.

“We expected it because it was the right legal outcome,” Wall said. “The facts of the case didn’t fit the crime that was charged. It was surprising that he was charged in the first place, considering that the detective told us that he didn’t believe [Essential Hemp] was knowingly selling a product that was not legal.”

Wall also noted that the basis for the search warrant is still unknown, creating issues of transparency for all hemp shop owners.

“If they can just get a search warrant and seize personal property, it opens the door for some pretty broad overreach potential,” Wall said.

While some of the search warrants note that the raids were a response to “information from a concerned citizen,” the Greensboro Police Department has yet to product any evidence of such complaint to TCB, despite repeated requests.

Wall also noted that to this day, they don’t know why Essential Hemp and another hemp shop, OG Hustler Smoke Shop, were targeted.

“We have no idea why they were targeted and why another locally-owned small business was targeted,” she said, “but none of the larger companies selling the same product were.”

TCB’s reporting from Oct. 27 found that many other stores in and around Greensboro sold similar products to the ones sold at Essential Hemp and OG Hustlers.

This lack of transparency, plus the fact that the store sustained thousands of dollars in monetary damage because of lost product, is why Sanchez and his attorneys may be planning on filing a civil suit against the city and the police department soon. While the lawyers did not clarify when the suit could be filed, Wall noted that the goal would be for Essential Hemp to be able to recover some of the monetary damage that they sustained. Brennan Aberle, another one of Sanchez’s lawyers told TCB that there may be additional courses of action in addition to just recouping the lost funds.

“It was certainly really unusual to put it mildly, and outright retaliatory to be honest,” Aberle said of Sanchez’s arrest. “The timing of them arresting Mr. Sanchez the day after the News & Record ran their article.”

Sanchez said he and his family are glad that the charges were dropped and are looking at future actions he and his legal team can take. He also noted that the support from the community during this difficult time has been overwhelming.

“The support from the Greensboro community, the people who come to the store to buy, has been incredible,” Sanchez said. “We absolutely appreciate it; that’s made us feel a lot better.”

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