Pubdate: Tue, 25 Feb 2003
Source: AlterNet (US Web)
Copyright: 2003 Independent Media Institute
Author:  Debra McCorkle, AlterNet
Note: The author is a shopowner living in the mountains of North Carolina.


"People Selling Drug Paraphernalia Are In Essence No Different Than Drug
Dealers. They Are As Much A Part Of Drug Trafficking As Silencers Are A Part
Of Criminal Homicide." -- John Brown, Acting DEA Chief 

I'd like to direct Mr. Brown to the Web site of of Aloha,
Oregon. Not only will they sell me a gun silencer, there is an entire page
devoted to explicit directions on how to obtain the necessary paperwork and
background check in order to allow me to purchase a silencer online. I have
to be at least 21 and innocent of any felony crime. One credit card payment
and a little paperwork and I can blow someone's head off with a minimum of
personal hearing damage. 

Of course John Brown, of the Drug Enforcement Agency, has little interest in
guns and murder outside of the world of drug dealing. In the last couple of
days, however, he has overseen the arrest of at least 55 people whose only
stated crime was the manufacture and selling of tobacco accessories. His
equation of bong-makers with drug traffickers is ludicrous at best, and his
apparent indifference to the legal sale of silencers across America makes
him a hypocrite caught in his own words. 

This action, known as Operation Pipe Dreams, is part of a continuing effort
on the the part of Attorney General John Ashcroft to rid our land of the
ability to smoke weed with a little style. In the past 10 years the
pipemaking industry took an art class and began to integrate aesthetics into
the production line. Handblown glass pipes began as a one-of-a-kind art form
created usually by twentysomethings with talent and time on their hands.
Over the years pipes became amazingly elaborate, with high-end waterpipes
evolving into colorful gothic cathedrals. Simple $20 spoon-shaped pocket
handpipes became the common smoking apparatus of choice, replacing decades
of utilitarian metal and acrylic. 

However, the powers-that-be want a return to the paraphernalia stone age. If
the DEA has its way, that loathsome scum of an American subculture who still
dare to believe that smoking various herbal substances is their own damned
business will be forced back into stealing plumbing screens from their
faucets and emptying out plastic honey bears in order to fashion crude
waterpipes a la Brad Pitt in the movie "True Romance." Pepsi cans and beer
bottles will be pulled out of trashcans, aquarium tubing will be purchased
at Wal-Mart, and lamp parts from Home Depot will turn into pipe bowls for
the waterpipes that will be Rube Goldberged into existence. 

Americans have been given the distinct impression that our federal budget is
strapped for cash and that we need all resources to ferret out the
terrorists in our midst. It seems a waste of resources to carry out
Operation Pipe Dreams in order to ensure that 55 pipesellers will no longer
be on the streets while terrorist cells await their orders in the heartland
of America. Doesn't Ashcroft have better things to do? What about those
darned silencers all over the internet? 

In the meantime, lives are being ruined. Many if not most paraphernalia
dealers are under 40 years old and guiltier of being young and na´ve than of
being dangerous. If forfeiture occurs there may not be enough money for
their families to hire top-notch lawyers. In a recent conviction Chris Hill
of Chills Pipes was sentenced to one year at the Eglin prison facility, and
Hill was one of the wealthier pipe manufacturers in the U.S. Pipe dealers
have not made their profits from stealing or acts of violence. It is an odd
choice on the part of the U.S. government to convict young entrepreneurs and
house them in prisons at great taxpayer expense. 

Over at there's a virtual cornucopia of submachine guns, some
with silencers, some without. There's an HK MP5 A3 machine gun transferable
9mm in excellent condition on sale for $8,800. Oh darn, it's got a "Sold"
sign by the price. The top of the page states: "Machine guns are a specialty
here at Impact. They are very easy to purchase and are a great investment." 

If only our forefathers had the insight to put in an amendment for smoking
accessories right there with the right to bear arms. Maybe then John
Ashcroft and his DEA buddies could just sit around the fire with Tommy Chong
and the other paraphernalia company owners, and their only pipe dreams would
be world peace.
- ---
MAP posted-by: Doc-Hawk