High-ranking government officials are such buzz killers sometimes. Last
Monday, U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft ordered a massive nationwide
sting on Internet distributors of drug paraphernalia, including pipes and
glass bongs. "Operation Pipe Dreams" yielded millions of dollars worth of
seized goods and 55 busts--including two in Eugene.

Pot smokers have been buying their gear legally at head shops for decades,
under the subterfuge that the 10-foot water pipe they're lugging to their
VW van is for use with tobacco only.

"The line between legal and illegal has always been really fuzzy with this
stuff," concedes Brin Levinson, a Portland glass blower who, until Monday,
made bong stems for a local paraphernalia distributor. "The whole shop
where I worked is basically out of business right now."

Mark Herer, co-owner of The Third Eye Shoppe, insists he isn't doing
anything illegal by selling bongs at his head shop. "It's not my job to
figure out what people are putting in their apparatus," Herer argues.
"Let's shut down Radio Shack for selling alligator clips."

But Thomas O'Brien of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration's Seattle
office sees a big difference between something with a legitimate legal use
and something made exclusively for smoking weed.

"If people have arts and crafts, that's OK," says O'Brien. "But anyone
selling things used for inhaling controlled substances, that's illegal."

He says his office is working with local police

agencies and warned that feds won't overlook places like Third Eye much longer.

But until Ashcroft knocks on his Southeast Hawthorne Boulevard door, Herer
plans on conducting business as usual. "We're still walking the walk and
talking the talk according to the rules they set up," says Herer. "We're
not changing the way we do business."

Pubdate: Wed, 05 Mar 2003
Source: Willamette Week (OR)
Copyright: 2003 Willamette Week
Contact: mzusman@wweek.com
Website: http://www.wweek.com/