Shops Fearful of DEA's Wrath

Shops Fearful of DEA's Wrath
Posted by CN Staff on June 21, 2003 at 08:22:03 PT
By J.D. Sparks -- Bee Staff Writer
Source: Sacramento Bee 
A marijuana bong by any other name is a tobacco water pipe. Put a feather on a battery clamp and it becomes a roach clip. A crackdown on so-called head shops and their suppliers is pitting some Sacramento-area business owners against federal regulators while state and local law enforcement are caught in the middle.Even as the federal government remains embroiled in legal battles with California and a half-dozen other states over the decriminalization of medicinal marijuana, it has taken a new approach on the war on drugs. 
U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft and the Drug Enforcement Administration in February announced the first indictments in a campaign against manufacturers and distributors of drug paraphernalia -- a billion-dollar-a-year industry.Operation Pipe Dreams and Operation Headhunter targeted head shops and Internet sites that sell, among other things, smoking paraphernalia such as pipes, bongs and roach clips. The DEA's raids have led to the indictment of more than 50 people, including four Northern California residents and Tommy Chong, 65, once half of the comedy duo Cheech and Chong and now a manufacturer of marijuana pipes.The agency's acting administrator, John Brown, said earlier this year that merchants who sell drug paraphernalia are no different from drug dealers.The DEA considers marijuana to be an addictive and dangerous gateway drug that leads its smokers to experiment with other, harder drugs such as heroin.Like many head shop owners, Robert Bacon is worried that his livelihood will go up in smoke -- along with thousands of dollars' worth of merchandise -- if the DEA has its way.Bacon's store, Midtown Specialties in Sacramento, is a jumble of collectibles from jewelry to suits of armor. In a smaller room separated by a beaded curtain, he also sells smoking paraphernalia. Posted signs tell customers that all the products for sale are legal and intended for tobacco use only.Grinders that separate stems are for herbal smoking blends made from wild lettuce, kava and sage. The old Zig-Zag rolling papers have a new look, a new name and even come in flavors. Fruit-sweetened Egyptian tobacco is sold for use with hookahs. Display cases are filled with stash boxes, incense and oils.Snipped: Complete Article: Source: Sacramento Bee (CA)Author: J.D. Sparks -- Bee Staff WriterPublished: Saturday, June 21, 2003Copyright: 2003 The Sacramento BeeContact: opinion sacbee.comWebsite: Articles:Comedian Chong Admits Equipment Sales Traffickers Out of Business Weed Out Drug Paraphernalia Sites Cannabis News Paraphernalia Archives
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Comment #2 posted by freedom fighter on June 21, 2003 at 19:28:38 PT
Rest of the snipped.. 
Customers must be 18 or older and are carded. Any mention of marijuana and Bacon will ask the customer to leave."Everything I carry is legal according to the state," Bacon said.Only 10 percent of Midtown Specialties is dedicated to the elaborate, hand-blown glass pipes made by local artisans and costing from $10 to $80, but they account for 35 percent of his sales, he said.Bacon said he refuses to sell kits, small spoons, clear glass pipes or other paraphernalia frequently associated with crack cocaine and heroin use."We're not a head shop. We're a hemp store that sells glass tobacco pipes," said Amy Englefield, 26, manager of Hemp in the Heartland in Old Sacramento.The store also sells novelty books and magazines on marijuana culture and cultivation, cookie cutters in the shape of a pot leaf, a high-seas smuggler board game and measuring scales.Englefield estimated that 60 percent of the store's sales are based on the purchase of glass pipes kept in a small room. The pipes range from 3-to 5-inch models -- called "chillums" -- to 10-inch Sherlock Holmes-style pipes, multichambered foot-tall bongs with ash catchers and velvet-tentacled hookahs.She said the store's owners have been careful to follow the California Health and Safety Code.DEA officials say head shops market to teens and young adults by opening near schools and colleges. But their greatest concern is the growing number of Internet sites selling smoking paraphernalia."The advent of the Internet has allowed traffickers to get inside the American home and market their illegal products to kids," DEA spokesman Will Glaspy said.In its ongoing operations, the agency shut down some of the largest manufacturers and distributors of drug paraphernalia, as well as head shops, he said.Federal law defines drug paraphernalia as any object designed for drug use."Everybody knows what a tobacco pipe looks like," Glaspy said. Businesses are marketing drug paraphernalia to youth as evidenced by their cartoon designs as well as boxes, bags and cozies that are used to conceal pipes, he said.The DEA's actions are "an attempt by the government to enforce marijuana prohibition around the edges," said Keith Stroup, founder and executive director of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, or NORML.Caught between federal hard-liners, tax-generating business owners and a majority population that supported Proposition 215, which opened the door to medicinal use of marijuana, the Sacramento Police Department has opted for a hands-off policy on enforcing drug paraphernalia laws.Police officers will charge arrestees with possession of drug paraphernalia only if they have solid evidence, such as residue, that it was used illegally."Obviously, the items they're selling aren't illegal by themselves," Sacramento Police spokesman Sgt. Justin Risley said. "It's not something we've had a problem with. It's a non-issue."Don Steed, Sacramento County deputy district attorney, said the state's Health and Safety Code does not include marijuana pipes as illegal drug paraphernalia. It is not illegal to possess a marijuana pipe, Steed said, nor are charges pressed even when the pipe has traces of marijuana in the bowl.He said in more than two years his office has not seen an arrest or citation of an owner, operator, individual or business trafficking in marijuana pipes."If the federal government felt that by bringing indictments, even one marijuana smoker would quit, they're wrong," he said. "There are 20 other stores they can buy pipes and papers in."__- Memo: To DEA spokesman Will Glaspy Subject: Tobacoo Pipes...I supposed tobacco pipes could'nt possibly be used to smoke the dread weed? Are you sure that there are no possible way to convert a tobacco pipe into a marijewwwannna pipe?pazff
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Comment #1 posted by afterburner on June 21, 2003 at 08:34:53 PT:
Cannabis Prohibition Is Bogus! Free the Bong!
The DEA considers marijuana to be an addictive NOT and dangerous gateway drug NOT that leads its smokers to experiment with other, harder drugs such as heroin."DEA, go away." -David Malmo-Levine.ego transcendence follows ego destruction, Safe Access Now!
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