CRACKING DOWN ON MERCHANDISE
Officers Ask Store Owners To Stop Selling Glass-Pipe Packaging
The Lee County Sheriff's Office is asking local shop owners to stop selling novelty items whose glass-pipe packaging is considered drug paraphernalia.
The pipes often house plastic flowers and usually can be found at gas stations and other stores, according to Capt. Van Jackson of the Lee County Sheriff's Office Investigative Division.
Based on phone interviews with stores in the area, the availability of the novelties varies at local stores - some stores sell the pipes, some have already stopped selling pipes and some have never carried them.
Shannon Murphy, manager of the Sunny Foods store on Columbus Parkway in Opelika, said her store does carry the novelty items, but the price has recently been increased to $2. Murphy, who has managed the store for about two months, said a novelty company provides the pipes to her store. Murphy believes the store began selling the pipes under the previous manager.
The consumer base is limited.
"The crackheads," Murphy said. "That's it - especially right here."
"The big problem here is they (the pipes) are readily available for users," Jackson said. "It enables people to continue with drug abuse."
Jackson said unlike plastic packaging that melts, the glass pipes can be used to smoke.
Jackson said most of the pipes found at stores and during drug busts are cylindrical.
During a recent drug bust, the office found a box of pipes, complete with plastic flowers, in the suspect's car, Jackson said.
Jackson believes the suspect, who was arrested on crack-cocaine-related charges, had bought the pipes for personal use.
Two months ago the sheriff's office became aware of a second style of pipe, which was brought in by a concerned resident recovering from a drug addiction, Jackson said.
The new packaging is a smoking pipe.
"When you look at this one there is no doubt that it's a little pipe,"
Jackson said. "It's very obvious what that is designed for."
Jackson said the problem is compounded because the sale of the pipes as novelty packaging is not regulated.
"There is nothing that protects young kids from walking in the store and buying it," Jackson said.
Nothing but conscious shop owners.
Jackson said eventually shops could be charged with misdemeanors or felonies for paraphernalia possession or distribution.
"All of those are possible options," Jackson said. Right now, though, the office will start by asking shops to discontinue sales.
The City of Mobile is past the point of asking; it banned the sale, possession or manufacture of the pipes in March. Dick Cashdollar, the city's director of public safety, said the city got the idea from a similar measure in St. Petersburg, Fla. Cashdollar said Mobile's problem has been with the cylindrical-style pipes. Cashdollar added he has not seen any of the newer pipes.
"Some places were so brazen that when you bought the pipes they gave you steel wool too," Cashdollar said.
Cashdollar said drug users use the steel wool as a filter in the pipes.
The state has existing laws on paraphernalia. Section 13A-12-260 of the Code of Alabama defines paraphernalia as "all equipment, products, and materials of any kind which are used, intended for use, or designed for use, in planting, propagating, cultivating, growing, harvesting, manufacturing, compounding, converting, producing, processing, preparing, testing, analyzing, packaging, repackaging, storing, containing, concealing, injecting, ingesting, inhaling, or otherwise introducing into the human body a controlled substance in violation of the controlled substances laws of this state."
The section mentions water pipes, roach clips, chamber pipes and ice pipes, but no plastic-flower pipes.
The city adapted existing state laws to include a paragraph naming the glass pipes, Cashdollar said.
But paraphernalia is protean.
"Many things can be made or adapted into drug paraphernalia,"
Paraphernalia is still a problem, but the new ordinance has made it easier to outlaw, Cashdollar said.
"It's very simple now," Cashdollar said. "As new paraphernalia shows up, I just draw up a new ordinance."