Cops Raid Shops for 'Paraphernalia'

Cops Raid Shops for 'Paraphernalia'
Posted by FoM on March 19, 2001 at 07:18:37 PT
By Molly Brown, Anchorage Daily News
Source: Anchorage Daily News
Months after the Anchorage Assembly made it a criminal offense to sell items defined as "drug paraphernalia," Anchorage police seized boxes of stuff from two local novelty stores last week. At least two other stores removed items from shelves. Police were spurred into action last Monday after a citizen reported "suspicious activity" at Really Neat Stuff, said police detective Dennis Allen. The citizen described a store with toys in the front and saloon-type doors opening to a back area that housed other items, Allen said. 
An investigating officer visited the store, at 6140 Old Seward Highway, and found "bongs, metal, wooden, acrylic and glass pipes used mainly for ingesting marijuana," according to court papers. A few hours later, police arrived at Really Neat Stuff and seized goods -- owner Chris Main estimated 70 boxes -- worth thousands of dollars. "I've been ambushed," Main said. "If I had known it was against the law, I would have taken it off my shelves." Main wasn't the only person surprised by the seizure. Jill Williams, after hearing about the raid, drove from her home to her Midtown business, The Look, and removed 40 pipes from shelves. And Joel Mathes, owner of Exit Glass on Spenard Road, locked his door and boxed up some items, which he says he sells for tobacco use. His store also sells hemp products, jewelry and body lotions. Police seized items from the Black Market, a downtown store, on Tuesday. The store owner did not return calls. No charges have been filed. "It's a waste of everybody's money," Williams said of the seizures. The police "could be doing something more important than that." Changes to the city's drug abuse and paraphernalia code were contained in an ordinance amending the municipality's criminal code. The 11-page ordinance, among other things, redefined child abuse, child neglect, harassment by electronic communication and resisting or interfering with an officer, and it defined and criminalized the sale or possession of drug paraphernalia. Besides making the sale of drug paraphernalia a criminal offense, the ordinance defined them as "any items whose objective characteristics or objective manufacturer's design indicate that it is intended for use in the consumption, ingestion, inhalation, injection or other method of introduction of a controlled substance into the human body." The ordinance added crack cocaine bongs, stems and pipes and methamphetamine bongs and pipes to a list that includes scales and balances to measure controlled substances; blenders, bowls, containers, spoons and mixing devices used with controlled substances; and objects like metal, wood, acrylic, glass, stone, plastic or ceramic pipes, water pipes, chamber pipes and carburetor pipes, to name a few. The ordinance was introduced by officials of then-Mayor Rick Mystrom's administration. It was adopted in July after Mayor George Wuerch took office. The changes to the law took effect in October. The Look and Black Market were two of four businesses simultaneously raided by police in November 1997. Authorities had planned to bring criminal charges against the store owners for selling drug paraphernalia, but a conflict in city law prevented municipal prosecutors from filing charges. Seized items were returned to the businesses in January 1998. Municipal prosecutor John Richard said Friday that operation didn't go well. The ordinance was contained in the city's criminal code but included only civil penalties, such as fines and orders to stop selling. The Anchorage Municipal Code now states that violators face up to a year in jail and a $5,000 fine. Violators also forfeit any confiscated items. News of the law change came as a surprise to many people. Main said he didn't know about the Assembly's action. Williams wonders whether the Assembly sneaked the ordinance through. Mathes doesn't think the city has the power to enforce the law. There are similar ordinances nationwide, Richard said. In most places they've been upheld by courts, he said. Richard expects the battle over the Anchorage ordinance to be decided by the Alaska Court of Appeals. "It's not like these are actual drugs, but they are particularly defined in what we believe gets by any challenge of vagueness," he said. The purveyors typically post signs that say the items are for smoking tobacco, but Richard said he believes the city can provide expert testimony that the items are not used for that purpose. Meanwhile, Main is busy finishing his store. A recent separation from his business partner required him to open the new store on the Old Seward Highway. "I'm scared. I'm scared I'm not going to be able to pay the rent," he said. Mathes said he's made and produced pipes for his store for 3 1/2 years. "The only people who have illegal intentions for these products are the police," he said. "It's a political problem. (The law) is so ambiguous and so vague that it is open to political interpretation." People now have to prove that the items aren't used for illegal purposes, he said. "They are making people prove they are innocent, not actually proving that people are guilty," he said. Mathes and Main said they plan to address the Assembly. Williams said she would consider testifying. Note: Seizure: Police cart off boxes of goods worth thousands.Source: Anchorage Daily News (AK)Author: Molly Brown: Anchorage Daily NewsPublished: March 19, 2001Copyright: 2001 The Anchorage Daily News Contact: letters Website: CannabisNews Paraphernalia Archives
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Comment #3 posted by jorma nash on March 20, 2001 at 00:49:09 PT:
'harm maximization' policies.
hmmmm, i've always thought paraphernalia laws were especiallly telling.informed cannabis users know water pipes filter smoketo make it less dangerous.apparently the message is,if you defy us, we want you to come to the most harm possible.
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Comment #2 posted by Al Anders on March 19, 2001 at 17:59:45 PT:
Legal help
The merchants need help fighting this. Send me some info on court battles won on this in other jurisdictions. freehemp
Free Hemp In Alaska
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Comment #1 posted by Cuzn Buzz on March 19, 2001 at 07:54:24 PT:
More prohibitionist hysteria
Typical. Want to bet that the idiots who sneaked the local ordinances through are self rightous religious types as well.This sort of stuff was popular in the 70's.Kill them all, kill them now.
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