Smyrna is leading the state in dealing with the growing scourge of illegal synthetic drug sales at convenience stores, with a few suspensions of beer licenses and fines for store owners who were charged last year as part of a countywide sting operation by local law enforcement.
Operation Synful Smoke was conducted in early September 2011 and confiscated the illegal products from more than 30 convenience stores throughout the county.
Owners of five stores in the Smyrna city limits were cited for violating city ordinance 8-222, which prohibits criminal activity at the establishment of any beer license holder, and were fined or had their licenses suspended by the board in April.
The Beer Board broke new ground again this month with possibly the first complete revocation of a beer license in the state because of such criminal activity.
Ibrahim Hassan, owner of the Smyrna BP at 221 N. Lowry St., was charged during Operation Synful Smoke as well and plead guilty to the charges in Judge David Loughry’s General Sessions Court instead of simply forfeiting the confiscated drugs and cash as the other owners had done. Hassan also owns Mystic’s, also located on North Lowery in Smyrna, and continues to hold a beer permit for that store.
Prior to consideration of Hassan’s license revocation by the board, several citizens spoke their mind during the public comment period, including state Rep. Mike Sparks (R-Smyrna).
“I asked Mr. Hassan last summer to quit selling these drugs, and he equated it to cigarettes, so I called the police.” Sparks said. “Folks, let me tell you what this guy was doing. He was keeping young people’s driver’s licenses after they were addicted – and that’s got to be a pretty powerful addiction for someone to give up their driver’s license – and I asked Mr. Hussein to come with me to the emergency room to witness the effects of these drugs but he refused to do so.”
“There have been deaths from Johnson City to Memphis because of this stuff, and folks like this man are responsible for those deaths,” Sparks said, and then pointed directly at Hassan while adding, “I put the blame at your footsteps, sir.”
Brooke Wyant, mother of former addict turned advocate Dylan Evans, also expressed her support for revoking Hassan’s beer permit.
“Dylan is one of the lucky ones because he had a caring family to help him through this, but someone has to stand up and fight for the other kids,” she said. “The convenience store owners that are selling these drugs need to be held accountable and we need to say to them ‘Here in America, we care about our youth.’”
Smyrna City Attorney Jeff Peach then advised the board police had visited the store and advised the owner of the illegal nature of the substances three times before he was finally arrested during the sting operation for continuing to peddle the products.
Hassan did not address the board personally, but he chose to be represented by attorney Anton Jackson.
Jackson said his client admits his guilt in selling the drugs after they were made illegal.
He asked the board to consider his client’s “taking of responsibility for his actions” and not be “overly punitive.”
“My client committed a crime, but he is not a criminal,” Jackson said. “He is a small business owner.”
The motion to revoke Hassan’s beer permit passed on a 3-2 vote by the board and becomes effective immediately.
According to Smyrna City Code concerning beer permit applications, Hassan may apply for a new permit after one year, but any previous revocation will be a consideration for the board in their decision to grant a new permit.
“This is the first time in the state of Tennessee that a beer permit holder’s license has been revoked due to sales of illegal drug sales,” Jackson said during deliberations on the matter.
Smyrna police continue to find illegal synthetic drugs being sold at other locations, but those cases are still in the criminal court process.