Shops Walk a Fine Line With Drugs 

Shops Walk a Fine Line With Drugs 
Posted by CN Staff on March 10, 2003 at 08:00:53 PT
By Ken Raymond, The Oklahoman
Source: Oklahoman
Mike Martin is quick to point out that his shop doesn't sell bongs. "Bongs are illegal in the state of Oklahoma," he said. "We sell water pipes intended for tobacco use only."That intent -- regardless of what common sense suggests will actually be smoked in the pipes -- is one of the things that keeps Drew's Tobacco World on the right side of the law.
"The public is apt to operate on common sense," said Scott Rowland, attorney for the Oklahoma Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs. "They are apt to say, 'C'mon, that's not a tobacco pipe. Everyone knows that's used for marijuana or methamphetamine.' "But common sense doesn't matter in court." When it comes to drug paraphernalia, what does matter in court is a list of standards so full of loopholes that semantics become the difference between legality and illegality. State law lists things ranging from water pipes to cocaine spoons as illegal. Under Oklahoma statute 2-101, some items to be considered drug paraphernalia include: Metal, wooden, acrylic, glass, stone, plastic or ceramic pipes with or without screens, permanent screens, hashish heads or punctured metal bowls; Water pipes; Carburetion tubes and devices; Smoking and carburetion masks; Roach clips, meaning objects used to hold burning material -- such as a marijuana cigarette -- that has become too small or too short to be held in the hand; Miniature cocaine spoons and cocaine vials; Chamber pipes, carburetor pipes, electric pipes, air-driven pipes, chillums, bongs, ice pipes or chillers. However, the statute also spells out exceptions: "The term 'drug paraphernalia' shall not include separation gins intended for use in preparing tea or spice, clamps used for constructing electrical equipment, water pipes designed for ornamentation or pipes designed for smoking tobacco." Rowland said, "What the statute does is set up a list of things that are commonly used as drug paraphernalia ... but the fact is, almost anything can be used as paraphernalia. So then the question becomes, do you try to make everything illegal that could possibly be used as paraphernalia, or do you do nothing?" On the federal level, officials chose to attack last month. On Feb. 24, Attorney General John Ashcroft and the Drug Enforcement Agency announced 50 arrests nationwide on complaints of trafficking in illegal drug paraphernalia. Operations Pipe Dreams and Headhunter targeted Internet companies that sold items similar to those found in Oklahoma City tobacco stores. "People selling drug paraphernalia are in essence no different than drug dealers," said John B. Brown III, acting drug agency administrator. "They are as much a part of drug trafficking as silencers are a part of criminal homicide." The key difference, if one exists, between the people who were arrested in the federal sweep and those operating shops locally is that the agency claims "all the defendants knowingly, intentionally and unlawfully sold the items for use with illegal narcotics." That sort of intent, Rowland said, is difficult to prove. "Just selling bongs and water pipes is not enough," he said. "Those factors must be considered in terms of paraphernalia. Proximity to drugs is one consideration. Whether or not there is residue of illegal narcotics is another." At Martin's shop, packaging is everything. Nothing is labeled as being intended for use with drugs, and nothing bears the images of controlled substances. "If a customer comes in with a marijuana leaf on his shirt, he's kicked out," Martin said. Other smoke shops aren't as scrupulous. Ziggyz Smoke Novelty Shop sells an assortment of products emblazoned with marijuana leaves, as well as pseudoephedrine, finger scales and books on how to cook methamphetamine. "We're not really a smoke shop or a head shop," said one employee at the store. "We're just a general merchandise store." That kind of subjective distinction, Rowland said, is precisely the problem when it comes to enforcement. "It's a really murky line," he said, "but it's an important one. If we don't push against that line from time to time, we're going to have these places showing up on every street corner." Facts about drug paraphernalia: Possession of paraphernalia is a misdemeanor offense punishable by up to a year in county jail, a $1,000 fine or both. Residue (the presence of an illegal drug) and proximity (the nearness to illegal drugs) are the two biggest factors in determining whether something can be considered paraphernalia. Most drug paraphernalia arrests are made in conjunction with more serious drug offenses. Oklahoma has no statute against trafficking in drug paraphernalia. Federal charges can still apply. Source: Oklahoma Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs Source: Oklahoman, The (OK)Author: Ken Raymond, The OklahomanPublished: March 10, 2003Copyright: 2003 The Oklahoma Publishing Co.Contact: yourviews oklahoman.comWebsite: Articles:Glass Artists' Arrests Stoke 'Culture War' Americans From The Bong Threat Pipe Dreams Is a Nightmare 
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