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Up In Smoke?

Cozmo

New Member
Lawmakers are considering whether to end the legal distinction that bans the sale of pot-smoking paraphernalia but allows the same merchandise to be sold for use with tobacco.

One man's legal smoking accessory is another man's illegal drug paraphernalia.

But if Minnesota State Sen. Amy Koch, R-Buffalo, has her way, a bong will be a bong will be a bong.

And it will be a crime to sell, buy or use one.

"We recognize that you can smoke pot out of a pop can, an apple, a light bulb," Koch said. "We're going after the bongs."

Selling drug paraphernalia is already illegal in the state. Koch said her bill would strengthen the current law by taking away what she calls a "loophole" in the legislation.

Shop owners can sell hand pipes, one-hitters and water pipes because the state's drug paraphernalia law allows them to presume their products are being used to smoke tobacco – exclusively.

In fact, some shops say they either correct a customer's language or send them out the door if they insist on using pot vernacular.

Case in point: On a recent afternoon at Maharaja's in downtown St. Paul, where swords and collectible figurines are sold alongside Grateful Dead posters and glass pipes, a customer asked if a small pouch of the legal herb salvia divinorum would be enough for a "joint."

The clerk asked, "You mean a hand-rolled cigarette?"

Koch's new bill lists exactly what "paraphernalia" is and includes bongs, glass pipes, dugouts and one-hitters. It excludes traditional pipes, like corncob pipes and hookahs.

Koch had presented similar legislation last session, but the bill was pulled from a public safety omnibus bill at the last minute, she said.

This year, the fate of Senate File 278 is still unknown. It was referred to the Judiciary Committee in January but has not yet had a hearing. The House companion bill is also in committee.

Koch said her bill is aimed at places that sell paraphernalia, specifically the nonmetro shops that may have a selection of pipes alongside groceries or cigarettes. She knows that bigger stores, like the northwest metro's Down in the Valley chain or Maharaja's in St. Paul, could also be affected.

"I really think that, for our community, it was really the exposure to the kids," Koch said.

If the bill became law, it would go into effect Aug. 1. Violations would be considered a misdemeanor.

Storeowners react

Most head-shop owners were reluctant to talk about the new bill, but a few said they are not catering to kids. No storeowner mentioned marijuana; most said their wares are for tobacco and legal herbs. No one would allow his or her collection of pipes to be photographed.

Paula Schleis, owner of Dazy Maze Incense and More in Forest Lake, said Koch's bill goes too far.

"It's really a shame we have to deal with this again," said Schleis. "I've had my store for eight years, and I run a clean shop."

Schleis said she sells a lot of " '70s stuff," like beaded curtains, posters and jewelry, and has a back room where she keeps her tobacco accessories.

"The front of my store is open to everybody," she said. "To get into my back room, you have to be 18 years old."

Keith Covart has run the Electric Fetus music and gift store in Minneapolis since 1968. Since starting on the West Bank, he has opened stores in Duluth and St. Cloud and has seen cultural mores change regarding smoking accessories.

He said that when legislators start defining what his products are used for, "it's scary legislation."

"It's just a freedom thing," he said. "Can you smoke a cigarette and not be arrested? Where are we going?"

"If someone states that they want a bong, we say we don't have that and we ask them to leave," said Steve Hyland, who runs four Down in the Valley stores, the first of which opened in 1972.

In his 35 years in business, he has seen similar legislation come and go, he said, and even helped to form a lobbying group to fight it. This time around, there is no unified front against Koch's bill.

"Nobody seems to be concerned about this," he said. "They don't think it's going to pass. It's so vague. How do you prove it?"

Debating the law

St. Paul City Attorney John Choi said that "proving it" – showing someone bought or sold a pipe for an illicit use – is time-consuming and extremely difficult with current laws.

"You've got to prove what was in the mind of the person selling and the person possessing," he said. "This would be a step towards addressing some of those proof issues."

At the same time, he added, inadequate resources in both his office and in law enforcement statewide would limit the number of paraphernalia cases pursued.

"I don't know if this would change anything in terms of the cases we prosecute in our office," Choi said.

Add to this the fact that selling drug paraphernalia is a misdemeanor – with a maximum of 90 days in jail and a fine of not more than $1,000 – and the bite of the bill weakens.

"We're not going to be shutting anyone down as a result of this law," Choi said.

Tom Walsh, spokesman for the St. Paul Police Department, praised the bill.

"I think the more difficult we make access to those kinds of things, the better our opportunity to keep people from using those controlled substances," he said.

Allen St. Pierre, the executive director of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, said drug paraphernalia statutes don't have much impact, mainly because they make illegal just a handful of things people could use to smoke marijuana.

In fact, Koch's bill makes no mention of what St. Pierre called the fastest-growing segment of the paraphernalia business: vaporizers.

"If they went and took out the things identified as paraphernalia, it would still leave dozens of legal products," he said.

Robert Vaughn, a Nashville, Tenn.-based defense attorney, has heard all the arguments for and against paraphernalia.

He has represented clients in 35 states since 1981, he said, in trials that stem mainly from the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration's introduction of a model paraphernalia law in 1979.

"Anything can be drug paraphernalia, and nothing has to be" under current law, he said.

"Drug paraphernalia is bounded only by the imagination of the drug user."

Source: TwinCities.com Pioneer Press
Author: John Brewer
Contact: jbrewer@pioneerpress.com
Copyright: 2007 TwinCities.com and wire service sources
Website: TwinCities.com : Minneapolis/St. Paul news, sports, entertainment, jobs and real estate
 

Freeman420

New Member
It seems that some politicians have a lot of time to kill and waste it by trying to criminalize waterpipes or bongs. I mean is Sen. Koch satisfied with how poverty, health care, education, and homelessness issues are being handled so she can focus on taking bongs off tha market? What about papers? You can use zig zags to smoke cannabis so should those be illegal as well? Politicians are supposed to be preoccupied with matters that negatively affect peoples' lives, this not being one of them.

So what if a person decides they want to go to a headshop, buy a bong, and go home so they can use it to smoke cannabis. Is this hypothetical person's actions negatively affecting another human being in any way? Eliminating tha sale of bongs will not discourage people from smoking cannabis, it will just piss them off. If bongs were illegal, then when a person goes to a headshop to purchase one and can't, then they will just buy a pipe or papers. They will still be able to enjoy their cannabis despite Sen. Koch's best efforts.

What about waterpipes for sale on tha internet? What will happen if a person in Minnesota decides to buy a bong from a website after tha senator's proposed legislation is somehow passed? Will her law restrict online sales of supposed drug paraphernalia to residents of her state and if so, does that law have tha jurisdiction to do so? What a serious WASTE of time and money on an absurd law that might not even be enacted! Constituents need to keep their representatives in line so they don't attempt ignorant bullshit like this. Our votes put them in office, so they need to answer to us when they decide to pursue insignificant, irrelevant policies. Peace.
LEGALIZE IT!!!!
 

Keith Lake

420 Emeritus
420 Staff
It seems that some politicians have a lot of time to kill and waste it by trying to criminalize waterpipes or bongs. I mean is Sen. Koch satisfied with how poverty, health care, education, and homelessness issues are being handled so she can focus on taking bongs off tha market?

That's Senator Koch (probably pronounced COCK), remember this MN voters
 

bigfanofpj

New Member
I had a friend lose her shop here in NC due to the illegality of "bongs"....it was a Fed thing though. Operation Pipecleaner if you believe that shit....Thanks John ASScroft ...there are no NC laws on the books against it.
 

Keith Lake

420 Emeritus
420 Staff
I had a friend lose her shop here in NC due to the illegality of "bongs"....it was a Fed thing though. Operation Pipecleaner if you believe that shit....Thanks John ASScroft ...there are no NC laws on the books against it.

I've only been in NC for two years but haven't seen a single headshop, even in the beach towns.

I assumed it was either a bible belt thing or a state law.

That's a trip though, operation pipe cleaner. Assholes that they are, at least they have a sense of humor
 

bigfanofpj

New Member
Soniq, there are a few around, but not many...I know of 2 around the Raleigh area...It seems the places that advertised, were the ones that got busted. And, it happened about 2 years ago, so I can understand why it's been hard to find. Damn the man...
 

Dunlap

New Member
What about waterpipes for sale on tha internet? What will happen if a person in Minnesota decides to buy a bong from a website after tha senator's proposed legislation is somehow passed? Will her law restrict online sales of supposed drug paraphernalia to residents of her state and if so, does that law have tha jurisdiction to do so?

Actually, thats how Tommy Chong got in trouble. He was selling bongs online from someplace where it was legal, and people from Pennsylvania bought some, when they received them, they went and arrested Mr. Chong. So yeah, if MN outlaws it, and an online company sells stuff to residents there, it is possible they could be charged under this law.
 
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