Head Shop Crackdown Smokes Out The Little Guy

Discussion in 'Marijuana News' started by Superjoint, Feb 28, 2003.

  1. By Mike Seate, Tribune-Review
    Source: Tribune Review

    "I believe in the near future, the government will use anti-drug hysteria to set up a police state" - author William S. Burroughs, 1947.

    Shoppers on the city's trendy South Side can still, if they wish, drop into a store and buy drug paraphernalia. Inventive stoners can head to the produce aisle at the Wharton Square Giant Eagle supermarket and buy an apple or a carrot, both of which can be hollowed out for pot smoking. Or they could try the sundries aisle where there's all sorts of emergency smoking supplies -- from empty toilet paper rolls to aluminum foil.

    Fine wooden and mock-ivory pipes for tobacco smokers are also available at Bloom's Cigar Store over on 12th Street.

    But consumers can't buy anything specifically designed for drug use. Not after Monday's raid by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, that is. Federal agents swooped down on several western Pennsylvania boutiques and so-called "head shops," arresting 55 people for selling what local U.S. Attorney Mary Beth Buchanan described as items "no one would possibly use for smoking tobacco."

    For the crime of helping people smoke tobacco substitutes, the federal government could fine the owners of these small businesses up to $250,000 each and put them away in a federal penitentiary for three years with rapists, murderers and people scary enough to creep out a Bosnian war criminal.

    If that sounds a bit harsh for selling wooden pipes, metal alligator clips and plastic baggies - items readily available in numerous office-supply stores and "legitimate" smoke and cigar shops - you ain't just whistlin' "Working on the Chain Gang."

    For a comparison of just how heavy-handed these sentencing guidelines are, consider the following: any of the 55 defendants could end up serving more time than those convicted of manslaughter, burglary, even rape.

    Criminals convicted of assault do an average of 30 months; rape, 36 months; murder, 40 months, according to 2001 figures from the U.S. Sentencing Commission. Drug offenders serve an average of 48 months in Pennsylvania.

    But time is not the only item Washington's goon squad is looking to steal from these folks. They all risk the forfeiture of their cars, homes and businesses under the current statutes, which, on the surface, seem like something dreamed up by Joe Stalin during one of his weekend getaways with Idi Amin.

    Defendant Randy Prezkopf, owner of Slacker, an alternative lifestyles boutique on the South Side's Carson Street, was among those rounded up on Monday. He's been scrambling to find an attorney and making potential plans for his incarceration. He's unsure just what items in his funky, well-lit shop caused the feds to target Slacker, but one item has come up missing.

    "It was a book on how to grow marijuana. I thought books were protected by the Constitution," he said.

    There was a time when the rights of average citizens such as Prezkopf, even ones who sold pot pipes and weird books, thought they, too, were protected by the Constitution. Apparently, those days are gone. The drug agencies will inevitably roll out the same old tired bromides about locking people up to protect the children from the ravages of drugs, without considering how many children will go parentless for a few years.

    And Prezkopf, along with 54 of his fellow Pennsylvanians, may find himself protecting his back in a federal prison. That's the biggest crime of all.

    Mike Seate is a staff writer for the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review.

    Source: Tribune Review (PA)
    Author: Mike Seate, Tribune-Review
    Published: Friday, February 28, 2003
    Copyright: 2003 Tribune-Review Publishing Co.
    Contact: letters@tribune-review.com
    Website: http://www.pittsburghlive.com/
  2. VERY SCARY!! The news also says that the Feds are going to start shutting down websites that sell paraphenalia, ESPECIALLY International ones!! Hang in there SJ!! I sure hope they don't screw around with this great site you provide us with!!

    Thanks again for all the HARD work you and your GREAT staff do to make this place feel like "home"!!

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