Where There´s Smoke

Where There´s Smoke
Posted by CN Staff on November 11, 2005 at 08:04:43 PT
By Adam Bulger
Source: Hartford Advocate 
Connecticut -- A new store in New Britain is trying to change the way we think about head shops. Larry Goodwin, the owner of Snot Locker in New Britain, hates the term "head shop." Standing behind the counter of his store, among his stock of organic hemp balm, scales, fake soda can stash spots, pipes, bongs and hookahs, Goodwin insisted that he isn't running a head shop. And, surprisingly, I found myself agreeing with him.
"It's a lifestyle store. People call it a head shop, but it's so much more than that," Goodwin said. "I don't know many other head shops that sell soap." And soap is indeed for sale at Snot Locker. Along with other seemingly nonintuitive items like chimes, hundreds of cult DVDs (ranging from Kieslowski's color trilogy to PCU) and CDs from local artists. The store, which is named for an antiquated nickname for a nose and opened in October, is brightly lit, playfully themed and upbeat. "It's not your father's smoke shop," Goodwin said. Entering a store like Snot Locker usually entails some weird parsing of language. A lot of really good, direct colloquial terms need to be discarded. Several words have to be avoided at the buyer's peril, like "bong," "marijuana" or even "bowl." That's not an issue at Snot Locker. "It's a bong," Goodwin said with a shrug after I asked him what I was supposed to call one of the three-foot-tall cylinders with bowls affixed to them. Broadly speaking, the legality of selling items like these is predicated on intent. Smoking devices are considered objects with many uses, including, but not limited to, illegal ones. For example, a multi-chambered water pipe could be used for its nominal purpose, smoking tobacco, or as a vase, or it could even be dropped off a building to watch it break. "Do you go into Walgreens and say, 'I'm going to buy some toilet paper to wipe my ass with'?" Andy Snyder, manager for Hartford smoke accessory emporium Stairway Thru Heaven said. Keith Stroup, an attorney for the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML), said small-business owners should put up signs advising that none of the items they sell are to be used for illegal substances. The federal law and individual states' laws governing paraphernalia are different. In 1994, the Supreme Court ruled in the case Posters ´n´ Things, Ltd., et al., Petitioners v. United States that the government could impose a "subjective standard" about what items could be considered paraphernalia. The case ruling also defined specific paraphernalia items, such as pipes, wired cigarette papers and bongs, as illegal paraphernalia. Until 2003 the law was rarely enforced. In 2003 and 2004 the John Ashcroft-led Justice Department launched "Operation Pipe Dreams" and "Operation Headhunter," which specifically targeted drug-accessory sales. In February 2003, 55 businesses and individuals were charged with trafficking in illegal drug paraphernalia, including iconic comedic actor Tommy Chong, who served nine months in prison. Stroup said while the federal law is in place, the individual states generally decide how enthusiastically it'll be enforced. Connecticut's enforcement has been more relaxed. Connecticut State Police public information officer Sgt. J. Paul Vance confirmed that merchant sales of smoking tools is legal. "If you have a water pipe, it can be used legally. So in and of itself, it's not illegal," Vance said. However, paraphernalia charges do exist in Connecticut. If someone is found with an illegal substance and a method of delivering that substance, paraphernalia charges follow. "If someone just has cigarette papers, it's not paraphernalia. But if we find them with marijuana and paraphernalia, we charge them," Vance said. Tracy Beaudoin, who recently took over 32-year-old Stairway Thru Heaven after working as a manager there for 11 years, said that she has never had any legal trouble at the store. "Everything here is legal," Beaudoin said. The store used to post a list of forbidden words, but Beaudoin said that the sign is no longer necessary. "It's just common knowledge. If you use those terms we'll kick you out. It happens on a daily basis," she said. Source: Hartford Advocate (CT)Author: Adam Bulger Published: November 10, 2005 Copyright: 2005 New Mass. Media, Inc.Contact: editor hartfordadvocate.comWebsite: Paraphernalia Archives
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