NOVELTY ITEM DOUBLES AS CRACK PIPE
DAYTONA BEACH -- Convenience stores are peddling a rose by another name, and law enforcement says it's called a "crack pipe."
A handful of convenience stores along Ridgewood Avenue and International Speedway Boulevard have been selling 4-inch glass tubes with a plastic rose, the size of a pinky nail, tucked inside. The rose, however, isn't going to the customer's sweetheart -- instead the glass tube is being used as a crack pipe by drug users and sellers.
They are called "love roses" or "rose tubes," and they are not illegal to sell here, police said. But, whether or not they know it, store owners, managers, and clerks are selling items used to smoke crack.
"They may not be selling them the dope," said Sgt. James Newcomb of the Daytona Beach police narcotics task force, "but they're giving them the tools."
Newcomb bought several rose tubes from stores along Ridgewood Avenue and International Speedway Boulevard earlier this month.
The rose tubes sell for about $3 and are meant as an impulse item -- a chintzy gift for a loved one. But often the items are tucked behind the counter, and the only impulse driving people to buy these items is to use as a portable crack pipe that can easily be pocketed. The tubes are bought with a copper Chore Boy scouring pad used as a filter when stuffed into the tube's tip.
"I don't see any commercial application," Newcomb said of the items, which are sold across the country and outlawed in some places. "They know exactly what it's being used for."
The situation is troublesome for police because to make an arrest, officers must prove the store owners know the items are being used for unlawful purposes, said Lt. Jesse Godfrey, who heads up Daytona Beach police's narcotics team.
Store owners and managers selling love roses said they were surprised to learn the notorious use for the novelty item.
"Everybody has it," said Sonny Bhavani, manager of the Texaco at the corner of Martin Luther King Boulevard and International Speedway Boulevard. "But if they are using it for that -- it's not good."
Some said they would stop selling the roses if the items were illegal.
"If it's not illegal, I cannot interfere with a customer's personal life," said Vinny Rakesh, operator and soon-to-be-owner of the Hess station at 300 N. Ridgewood Ave.
The glass tubes have been banned from sale in some cities and states across the country. They're bought by the stores from mobile vendors; the box says the tubes are made in China.
The owner of a Daytona Beach Texaco station, who asked not to be identified because he fears reprisals, said he knows exactly what the tubes are used for. He calls the rose tubes "crack pipes," and said he stopped selling them about five years ago after they attracted unsavory characters, and created a dangerous atmosphere for him and his staff.
He scoffed at the idea that the owners of the convenience stores selling the rose tubes had no idea about the ulterior use of the items.
"If you are in this business," he said, "it would take you five minutes to figure it out."
Rose tubes were bought by The Daytona Beach News-Journal last week at four convenience stores in the heart of Daytona Beach's most notorious drug areas.
Jeff Lenard, spokesman for the National Association of Convenience Stores, said the rose tubes present a muddy situation.
"If you took away everything that can be used to make or take drugs, you would be pulling a lot of things off the shelf," he said.
The bigger issue is stores that are one-stop shopping for crack kits, Lenard said, selling precut scouring pad material with the rose tube, and a lighter.
There is a precedent for holding the store owners responsible, said ethics professor Ronald Hall, chairman of the Philosophy Department at Stetson University. By selling items that teeter on the edge of legality the store owners are neglecting their responsibility to the community, he said.
Hall challenged the store owners to stop selling the items, although it might cut into their profits.
"What we need is somebody to stand up and say they're not going to do this," he said. "I think the community would admire it."
Source: Daytona Beach News-Journal (FL)