Drug Paraphernalia or Tobacco Pipes? 

Drug Paraphernalia or Tobacco Pipes? 
Posted by FoM on April 08, 2001 at 08:02:01 PT
By Tim McGlone
Source: Virginian-Pilot 
Virginia Beach -- Need a bong? Don't call it that, though, or the clerk will get angry and ask you to leave. It's a water pipe. And it's for tobacco only. That's one of the arguments George Morrison makes in his fight to sell them in Virginia Beach. For more than a year, city police and a state trooper have targeted stores selling water pipes and other items they say are commonly associated with drug use. Morrison's son, Brian, got caught in the crackdown in June when he sold pipe screens in front of a trooper from his shop, Fatty Shack, in Bill's Flea Market on Virginia Beach Boulevard. 
The Morrisons now stand in the center of a fight over constitutional rights and questions of what defines illegal drug paraphernalia. Meanwhile, the police effort is on hold as the Morrisons appeal the conviction. While some stores have stopped selling bongs and pipes, others continue despite police warnings that owners could be arrested. Lawyers and some experts in drug laws say Morrison's case could set a precedent for the state. If it reaches the U.S. Supreme Court, it could affect so-called head shops nationwide. Two Virginia Beach judges have already ruled that Brian Morrison, 23, sold drug paraphernalia from Fatty Shack. In upholding the misdemeanor conviction, Circuit Judge H. Thomas Padrick said water pipes and roach clips clearly are intended for using drugs, not tobacco. ``If I put a sign on a dog that says, `I'm a cat,' that doesn't mean it's a cat.'' Padrick said. ``You can say whatever it is, but it is what it is.'' The Morrisons filed their appeal with the Virginia Court of Appeals on March 23. In tobacco stores, flea markets and head shops across the state, water pipes and other smoking devices sell like candy. Owners believe they're protected by hanging signs that read, ``Not intended for illegal use,'' or ``No underage sales.'' Like recent efforts to rid Virginia Beach of nude dancing clubs and prevent tattoo parlors from opening, police have targeted these shops. They contribute to drug use, the city argues, and neighbors don't want them in their strip malls. Police have succeeded in stopping nearly all of the head shops in Virginia Beach from selling water pipes. At least two, however, still do. It all began in 1999, when state Trooper Ross Thompson, 2 1/2 years on the force, noticed during several traffic stops that young people carried water, ceramic or glass pipes. Each time, they told the trooper they bought them at Bill's Flea Market. Thompson went to the flea market, a collection of stalls that sell clothing, used furniture, old jewelry and, until recently, water pipes. Inside, he found Fatty Shack, which offered pipes, incense and other items. Brian Morrison and his father owned the store. A sign said anyone using the words ``bong,'' ``crack pipe'' or ``weed'' would be asked to leave. The trooper said nothing, but he returned in January 2000 to warn Brian Morrison he was breaking the law. The trooper then left for a six-month military deployment. When he returned in June, he found that the store's displays had grown. He issued Brian Morrison a summons for selling drug paraphernalia, a misdemeanor that carries a penalty of up to two years in jail. The trooper also seized pipes, a move Morrison's attorney called illegal because the trooper had no warrant. Morrison was found guilty by a General District Court judge and appealed to Circuit Court. On Nov. 16, Padrick heard the appeal. Morrison's attorney, Michael J. Woods, argued that the items are clearly marked for tobacco use only and that there were other items for sale, such as lava lamps and incense. ``Are they selling bell bottoms there, too? Is this something out of the '60s or something?'' the judge asked. Woods argued that the trooper never saw Brian Morrison sell water pipes and that he never intended to sell pipes or other items for drug use. Thompson testified that he never knew bongs, glass pipes or roach clips to be used for anything other than smoking marijuana or crack cocaine. He showed the judge clandestine devices, including a highlighter pen with a hidden pipe. ``Pretty nifty,'' the judge said. The trooper also said that he noticed stickers and bongs labeled ``4:20.'' Virginia Beach Detective Glenn B. Michaels testified that 4:20 goes back to the drug culture at the University of California at Berkley in the 1960s. At the time, afternoon classes finished at 4:15. ``Therefore,'' Michaels testified, ``five minutes after classes let out, 4:20, it was time to get high.'' Assistant Commonwealth's Attorney Katherine E. Orsini told the judge that the law defines bongs, water pipes, roach clips and other items as drug paraphernalia. Padrick upheld Brian Morrison's conviction and fined him $2,500, which he suspended on the condition of three years' good behavior. In his argument to the Virginia Court of Appeals, Woods said there was no evidence Brian Morrison had sold paraphernalia, and even if he did, the state law is vague. After Morrison's November conviction, Virginia Beach police began their crackdown. Detectives obtained two warrants to search another store in Bill's Flea Market, Finders Keepers, and G13 Glass Art in a strip mall in the 4700 block of Princess Anne Road. They seized pipes, paperwork and magazines, but no one has been charged. Police issued warnings to several other stores selling water pipes, and most have ceased their sales. G13 continues to sell its elaborate glass pipes. ``This is an art form protected by the First Amendment,'' said owner John Belote, whose pipes, some selling for $1,000, are made in the back of his shop. Finders Keepers closed after police issued the owner a warning. The store has since moved to another flea market in Chesapeake. Owner Kimberly Summers emphasizes piercings at her new location, but she also displays water pipes. ``It's really a double standard in Virginia Beach,'' she said. ``Some shops are allowed to stay open and others aren't.'' Curiosities Rock Shop in Pembroke Mall has a small display of water pipes in addition to a piercing booth and bins of rocks. Police have never warned the owner about the pipes, said an employee who did not want to be named. A shop on Colley Avenue in Norfolk has an ample supply of water pipes, and another stall in the Chesapeake flea market also sells them. Beach police declined to comment on the issue, citing the pending appeal. Commonwealth's Attorney Harvey L. Bryant III said just because some owners haven't been arrested doesn't mean the case is over. Another concern: the location of some shops. One store is a short walk from three schools. ``Kids pass them walking home from school,'' Bryant said. ``It attracts an element that people don't want in their neighborhood.'' Bryant said his office is working on an answer to Woods' appeal. Brian Morrison won't comment, but his father is fuming. ``How are we supposed to know the intent of the item? If that's the case, let's shut down the ABC stores, because people drink and drive,'' said George Morrison, who closed his store in Bill's Flea Market and opened a cigar shop down the street. The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that the seller must know that customers are likely to use the products for drugs, said Keith Stroup, executive director of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws. ``What you can't do is go in and say `I need a marijuana pipe,' '' he said. ``If a marijuana smoker wants a roach clip, he can go to a hardware store and buy a battery clip.'' Robert Vaughn, a Tennessee lawyer who has handled more than 30 paraphernalia cases in the past 20 years, said state and federal laws are inconsistent. He said this could be a new test case for the U.S. Supreme Court, which hasn't addressed the issue since 1994. At the least, a Virginia appeals ruling against Morrison could lead to a crackdown across the state. ``What is the difference between a glass, stone or metal pipe and a Dr. Grabow . . . or a Cobb pipe?'' George Morrison asked. ``The way I see it, a pipe is a pipe.'' Complete Title: Drug Paraphernalia or Tobacco Pipes? Case May DecideSource: Virginian-Pilot (VA)Author: Tim McGlonePublished: April 7, 2001Copyright: 2001 The Virginian-PilotContact: letters pilotonline.comWebsite: http://www.pilotonline.comCannabisNews Articles - Paraphernalia
Home Comment Email Register Recent Comments Help

Comment #5 posted by RasMan2001 on October 20, 2001 at 18:02:36 PT:
I have bought from G13 and 17th Street Jester. I like glass art and I hope to take some classes to learn how to do it. I like to collect glass and i have some pipes and tubes in my collection. Just because crackheads use them that doesn't mean everyone who has a pipe smokes crack. If the U.S. is all about freedom then why are you infringing on my rights. I can understand crack and heroin and other chemically mixed drugs being illegal but marijuana is a plant that NATURALLY contains THC, the substance which gets you "high". Tobacco is more dangerous than marijuana and is legal. There have been no reported deaths of marijuana smoking. Listen to Morgan Heritage's song License and listen to what they have to say. We the People are sick of being bullied by the politicians who We elect. It's no secret that the Government makes money off of marijauna. Hopefully a pot smoker will be elected preisdent before I die. We need to stand UNITED and fight for our rights or leave and start our own country. Whats wrong with sitting in my living room and smoking a marijauna cigarette? I'm not hurting anyone. just think about it.    
[ Post Comment ]

Comment #4 posted by dave on September 03, 2001 at 12:26:09 PT:
hello,, i was wondering if someone could give me some info and outline for opening up a water tobacco store,,, what are the red tape policies that i will face,,, and what webpage or gov't agency webpage can you go to ,, to find out the details about what is illegal to do and what is not,,, thank u,
[ Post Comment ]

Comment #3 posted by Lita Miller on August 24, 2001 at 10:16:51 PT:
a so called war on drugs.
In America today, the so called war on drugs has turned into little or more so a laughing stock in reality. No matter what measures are taken, drugs will always be around, including its constituants; paraphenalia. I arugue this point all the time and see it even more often, I walk into a head shop, see and array of beaufiful art work, but i have to be hush hush, so that i may buy them. I can also walk into CVS, a family oriented drug store might i add, and see a whole isle of tobacco products, including rolling papers, pipes, pipe needles and cleaners, and cigarette holders, otherwise known as roach clips. Yes the laws are as vague as they get, and prejudicial. If a shop has '60's' style clothing, or 'Dead-head' posters and what not, it is automatically asumed to be part of some deep dark drug secret. Stop and smell the roses you beaurocratic morons, your fighting a pointless cause, as well as violating a first amendment right. Whats next, illegalizing house cleaning products because a few idiots want to get high?
[ Post Comment ]

Comment #2 posted by Spiderman on April 09, 2001 at 10:59:08 PT
Rene Magritte
ceci n'est pas une pipe
[ Post Comment ]

Comment #1 posted by sm247 on April 08, 2001 at 15:00:20 PT
A pipe is a pipe so put that in your pipe and smoke it. Until it has residue from an illegal substance it should be legal to possess.if it has pot rediue who cares if it has crack residue then it's another story
[ Post Comment ]

Post Comment

Name: Optional Password: 
Comment: [Please refrain from using profanity in your message]
Link URL: 
Link Title: