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  Head Shop Crackdown
Posted by FoM on March 05, 2001 at 13:37:07 PT
By Philip Smith 
Source: Boulder Weekly  

paraphernalia Call them "head shops," "bong shops," or stores that specialize in smoking accessories. Whatever one calls them, stores that sell paraphernalia that can be used for marijuana are abundant in Boulder, as are glass blowing artists who make pipes.

Local cops have seldom made an issue of it, usually opting not to pre-judge the motives of people who buy or sell glass pipes. But customers and merchants may have a new concern, namely the federal Drug Enforcement Agency, which has been coming down on so-called "head shops" in college towns.

Adam Engleby thought everything was cool in his Big 12 town. His shop, Hemp Cat in Iowa City, sold "smoking accessories,"-or bongs, pipes, and rolling papers. But the Iowa City Police Department visited regularly, and they never had any problem with Hemp Cat's back room. After all, Iowa City is a progressive, tolerant college town, and local police reflected the relaxed attitude.

The Iowa City Police Department's Sgt. Brotherton has said as much. "We don't see [the Hemp Cat] as a major problem," he said. "We weren't paying much attention."

But what was an acceptable arrangement for the community wasn't good enough for the feds. On February 11, Engleby's home and business were raided by teams of civilian-dressed law officers, headed by the Drug Enforcement Administration.

"The DEA led the raids," Engelby said. "The only badge I was shown was a DEA badge. They had warrants for 'drug paraphernalia' and any sort of records, and they took everything. They took our rolling papers, they took real tobacco pipes, and, of course, they seized all of our computers-four of them, two at the store and two at home. They even took my wife's computer."

"The Iowa City PD never hassled us in six years of business," groaned Engleby. "No one ever came in and told us to stop, no one complained."

Engleby finds himself among a growing number of "alternative store" (the industry cringes at the term "head shop") owners and operators being rudely awakened to the reality of federal drug paraphernalia laws.

Unlike many state and local paraphernalia statutes, which allow for a subjective, contextual interpretation of whether a given object is indeed drug paraphernalia-sometimes a spoon is only a spoon-federal law is black and white:

Possession of a bong is a federal offense, and so, of course, is sale or manufacture of a bong, or conspiracy to do so. It can get you three years in federal prison.

And it doesn't matter if the bong has never been used or if it is a jewel-encrusted work of art; a bong is a crime.

And to make things even rosier, since 1990 federal law has made drug paraphernalia violators subject to Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organization ( RICO ) statutes and money laundering charges, as well.

"It's simple," said head shop defense attorney Robert Vaughan, the long-time publisher of an industry newsletter. "If you have a bong, you're violating federal law. You can get a license to own a tommy gun, but you can't get one to own a bong."

"Stores that have bongs are screwed," the Nashville-based lawyer said. "They can't win. The Supreme Court upheld its so-called objective standard in US v. Pipes and Things in 1994, and now categories of items are per se illegal."

Jerry Clark and Kathy Fiedler, of Des Moines, were already well aware of federal paraphernalia laws. Their shop, Daydreams, was raided by the feds last year, and they are scarred by the experience.

"We were raided by US Postal Inspectors, the DEA, and local cops and sheriff's deputies," Clark said. "And we're barely hanging on now. It's hurt us financially; we've lost over $250,000 in inventory and paid out lots of money in legal fees. And they're using the RICO act on us, so we're facing 10 to 12 years. They've seized my partner's properties under the asset forfeiture laws. But all we can do is try to litigate our way out or come to a negotiated settlement.

Clark and Fiedler remain in business, but they are angry.

"You have to get mad at the people who created this stupid law," Clark says. "But looking at the penalties we face, we're not going to do anything to rock the boat."

We don't feel like felons," added Fiedler, more hurt than angry. "These people don't have any idea who's smoking-they think it's the kids, but our customers are lawyers, preachers, even people from the state Attorney General's office. They're nice, average people, but instead of drinking a six-pack, they'd prefer to smoke things."

Attorney Vaughan, who is representing Clark and Fiedler, says it would be funny were it not for the serious consequences.

"With Operation Pipeline they managed to knock out all the big boys," he said. "But all they've created is a whole multi-level cottage industry, and lot's of these people don't even know about the federal law, they don't have any historical memory of Pipeline, and enforcement is sporadic. What a waste of time and resources and peoples' lives. It's as if the feds were out arresting the guy smoking a joint on the corner."

Note: DEA Hits Local Yokels.

News Article Courtesy of MapInc.
http://mapinc.org/drugnews/v01/n381/a13.html

Newshawk: jAHn
Source: Boulder Weekly (CO)
Author: Philip Smith
Published: March 1, 2001
Copyright: 2001 Bolder Weekly
Address: 690 South Lashley Lane Boulder, CO 80303
Fax: (303) 494-2585
Contact: letters@boulderweekly.com
Website: http://www.boulderweekly.com/
Feedback: http://www.boulderweekly.com/speakingout.html

CannabisNews Articles - Paraphernalia
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Comment #4 posted by Stephanie on July 10, 2001 at 21:02:26 PT:

so where are they now?
I have been told that there are still head shops still up in iowa city but do not know where. Where are they located?...

[ Post Comment ]
 
Comment #3 posted by military officer guy on March 05, 2001 at 16:00:25 PT
our gov't is TOO big...
sorry, i tried to post the page...didn't work
http://www.lp.org
we can win this war...


[ Post Comment ]
 
Comment #2 posted by military officer guy on March 05, 2001 at 15:57:53 PT
our gov't is TOO big...
simple answer to all of our questions, the federal gov't is TOO BIG...the ONLY way to get them out of our lives is to vote for people that truly want gov't reduced, guess who they are...LIBERTARIANS, vote libertarian every election...
www.lp.org">http://www.lp.org">www.lp.org
we can win this war...


[ Post Comment ]
 
Comment #1 posted by Ethan Russo, MD on March 05, 2001 at 14:31:20 PT:

Travesty
I have visited that establishment, during the 1st Annual Marijuana as Medicine seminar at the University of Iowa last April. These were nice people with a cool shop containing not just bongs, but hemp products, crafts and many other "counter-cultural" items that have nothing to do with drugs.

We must ask how society is improved by such draconian law enforcement. I believe it merely provides the jack-booted contingent a raison d'etre, without which they might be useless, or need to enforce laws against real crimes with real victims, not this ideological pseudo-war they have created.

[ Post Comment ]


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