Alleged Head Shop Bust ĎSets Precedentí

††Alleged Head Shop Bust ĎSets Precedentí

Posted by FoM on October 28, 2001 at 10:58:22 PT
By Michael Schaefer, Staff Writer†
Source: Foster's Online†

Expert testimony used by the Dover Police to obtain search warrants and seize thousands of dollars worth of alleged drug paraphernalia from a town tobacco store may break new legal ground in New Hampshire.While Dover is not the first to go after such shops, authorities in nearby jurisdictions said the departmentís use of warrants based on a future linkage to drug use, if successful, will give them a new tool to seize such devices.
"This sets a new precedent," said Dover Police Chief William Fenniman. "The items seized were readily apparent and customarily used for the ingestion of narcotics."Police searched the downtown business Smoke Signals last week and seized $3,000-$5,000 worth of devices that authorities say could be used for smoking illegal drugs. The storeís manager, Susan Hargrove, was charged with selling drug paraphernalia and will be arraigned on Nov. 9.The shop continues to sell cigarette wrapping papers, cigarettes and cigars.While seizing drug paraphernalia from such shops is not a high priority for law enforcement, police maintain it is an important part of controlling the drug problem.However, shop proprietors said that paraphernalia can be fashioned from everyday items such as toilet paper rolls and that shops are unfairly targeted. Hargrove said she made it clear that the shopís pipes were meant for legal substances.The store, which opened last month, plans to fight the seizure. Roughly 50 people have signed a petition in support of the store.Shawn Ranfos, 26, of Kittery, who visited the shop on Wednesday, said he was surprised to hear of the seizure. Most of the tobacco stores he visits in the Seacoast area have water pipes, he said.Ranfos was one of the few customers to enter the store since police seized the paraphernalia. Hargrove said prior to the warrant, the store made about $700 to $1,000 a day. Now, the store makes about $100 a day."People are afraid to come in here. Basically, (the seizure) has killed business," she said.Dover police used expert testimony from members of the stateís Attorney Generalís Drug Task Force, educators, drug chemists from the State Police Laboratory in Concord and the executive director of the Southeast New Hampshire Alcohol and Drug Abuse Services Center.Undercover officers also were used to gather evidence prior to the warrant.All the experts said that the water pipes, called bongs, are used solely for smoking illegal drugs, such as marijuana. Such devices sell for between $30 and $200."Generally in my experience, three-foot bongs are not used for smoking tobacco," Fenniman said.Cigarette rolling papers were not seized because Fenniman said they are not as clearly associated with narcotics as bongs.He said the search warrant is the first of its kind in the state and could allow other law enforcement agencies a new means to shut down such shops in their communities."In my opinion it is an attempt to break new ground," said Claire Ebel, executive director of the New Hampshire Civil Liberties UnionWhile Ebel said a successful prosecution may lead to broadened police powers, area law enforcement officials said they hope to have another tool to fight drugs."I think itís great what Dover is doing," said Capt. Jamie Sullivan of the Hampton Police Department."We always use every tool available to prevent violence and other problems," he said. "If more tools become available, then weíll use them."Such shops are not limited to Dover. Similar tobacco shops exist in Laconia, Portsmouth and Hampton. Each police department fashions its own approach to the problem of drug paraphernalia.Laconia Police Chief Bill Baker said he has met with the owners of Soul Sisters on two occasions in the past year and a half to discuss with them the impact of their products on the community."Their product line does not seem to enhance the quality of life in Laconia," he said.Like Smoke Signals, the owners of Soul Sisters insist the devices are only used for tobacco and other legal blends.However, Baker is skeptical."Soul Sisters is full of psychedelic-looking pipes. Itís one of those things that lends itself to interpretation," he said.Police departments thought Maine and New Hampshire must consider a variety of factors when determining whether an item is drug paraphernalia.Factors include the manner in which the object is displayed, instructions accompanying the instrumentís use, proximity to an area known for a large number of drug arrests and whether the instrument is customarily used as drug paraphernalia.New Hampshire law also allows for experts to testify to its use.Baker is keeping a close eye on the outcome of Doverís litigation.Currently, when Laconia officers discover narcotics and paraphernalia, they try to find out where suspects got the devices. Baker said officers may then field charges against shop owners who sold the device.Hampton Police also deal with several such shops. Sullivan said typically officers will ask the owners to remove the items. While many cooperate, Sullivan said he is sure some stores still stock the merchandise out of sight.Detective Capt. Adam Price of the Portsmouth Police Department said about four years ago police got a search warrant after undercover officers solicited discussions in a store about how to use the paraphernalia with drugs. The parties settled out of court and the police kept the devices. One of the two shops is now out of business.Many times prosecutors face the challenge of proving the sellers intended to sell the pipes for illegal purposes."You look at the totality of the circumstances and try to infer the intent," said James Cameron, a Maine assistant attorney general.He recalled a case about four years ago when a man had filled a van with bongs and was heading to a Phish concert at an abandoned Air Force Base in Washington County.The man planned to set up a booth at the concert and sell the bongs, Cameron said.Maine officials believed the devices were paraphernalia, but were unable to prove it in court.David Crook, a district attorney near Augusta, Maine, said he wants anyone who tries to set up a shop in his district to know that life is going to be difficult for them.While shutting down the businesses is not a priority for police officers, they will eventually find the time to seize the merchandise.Currently, Maine courts are deciding the fate of a large amount of paraphernalia seized recently from a Waterville store. A decision is expected in coming days."Everybody knows what these things are used for," Crook said. "Iíve never seen a bong advertised in a pipe magazine."Democrat writer Brad Morin contributed to this article.Note: Smoke Signals cited in drug case.Source: Foster's Online (NH)Author: Michael Schaefer, Staff WriterPublished: Sunday, October 28, 2001 Copyright: 2001 Geo. J. Foster Co. Website: Related Articles:Police Seize Inventory of Dover Tobacco Business Dover Smoke Shop to Fight Police Seizure

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Comment #5 posted by null on October 29, 2001 at 10:30:38 PT
damage done
The frustrating thing is that even when it it thrown out in court, it will have cost the shop thousands in legal fees and lost business. And what recompense will there be for the shop?? None. Is it possible to counter-sue the police or a judge for violating civil rights in the issuance of the warrant? Perhaps... That's how Rodney King eventually won his case I believe. Will it be worth the years in court and the costs associated? Unlikely.
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Comment #4 posted by Sam Adams on October 29, 2001 at 09:11:13 PT
This won't stand up
All this means is that the cops found a conservative judge who let them do there thing for a day. This won't stand up in court, but they will have succeeded in their goal, to screw the lady out of some business and nail her with some legal fees. Actually I don't know, maybe she will be able to get a settlement.
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Comment #3 posted by bruce42 on October 28, 2001 at 22:12:56 PT
it is ridiculous,
isn't it? The smoke shop can't be blamed for another's drug use. They made their casr clear. They never encouraged illegal drug use. I just can't understand how the smoke shop can be held liable for the pipes once they've been purchased. The fact still remains that you can put whatever you want to smoke in a pipe or a bong. I don't care how many so called witnesses the cops strut through the witness stand, a pipe is just a pipe. And they still have the guts to call this a war on drugs. This is damning proof of what the war really is- a war on culture. A war on the user. 
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Comment #2 posted by null on October 28, 2001 at 13:43:16 PT
Theoretical Recipe:1 empty pickle jar
Some plastic tubing designed for food/water from hardware store.
Some silly putty and a tobacco pipe from any Walgreens / RiteAide.Punch two holes into pickle jar lid. Insert a long piece of tubing through one hole that reaches bottom of jar. Jam stem of pipe into other end of tube. Cut short length of tube to jut just through second lid hole. Seal all connections with silly putty. Fill jar with water and screw on lid. Enjoy your new tobacco water pipe.Of course in the event that anyone ever misuses this recipe for illegal purposes there will be dire consequences. The police will have to seize stock from every Walgreens and RiteAid in America. Silly putty will be put out of business as will the pickle industry. In fact, ANY STORE selling items in mason jars would be selling PARAPHERNALIA. Walmart, the evil drug-paraphernalia-mason-jar financed empire would have it's assests immediately forfeited to the Police and FBI. Any cash in the drawers would be confiscated until Walmart could prove by provoiding serial numbers of each bill which money was not obtained via the sale of mason jar packaged goods.Additionally, anyone that thinks up a new recipe for a legal device which is later found to have illegal misuses would have their brain confiscated and put in a mason jar until they can be prosecuted for being a participant in "the drug consipracy" under Federal laws. Of course, under federal law, as a conspirator one can be held responsible for the entire operation. Thus each brain will then be sued for the amount of $50 billion dollars for the cost of waging the drug war. 
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Comment #1 posted by Elfman_420 on October 28, 2001 at 13:04:52 PT
"Everybody knows what these things are used for," Crook said. "Iíve never seen a bong advertised in a pipe magazine."This guy reads the wrong pipe magazines.
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