Pubdate: Tue, 22 Feb 2005
Source: St. Petersburg Times (FL)
Copyright: 2005 St. Petersburg Times
Author: Howard Troxler, Times Columnist
Bookmark: (Paraphernalia)


Head Shop Chain Opens Locally, Chooses Sites Near Schools

Bongs 'R Us, the national tobacco-products chain store criticized by 
antidrug groups for selling thinly disguised drug paraphernalia, announced 
Monday it will open new locations in the Tampa Bay area.

Sites near St. Petersburg, Palm Harbor University and East Lake high 
schools in Pinellas County, and Plant High School in South Tampa, will 
offer small glass pipes, bongs and even eastern-style hookahs.

"We look forward to bringing our tobacco-related products to Tampa Bay," 
said company president I.M. Tommychong.

* * *

Okay, okay, wait. There is no chain named "Bongs 'R Us" opening near Tampa 
Bay's high schools. I'm just trying to help Darryl Rouson make his point.

His point is that there is, yes indeed, just such a store in the Midtown 
area of St. Petersburg, four blocks from Gibbs High School.

So Rouson, president of the St. Petersburg NAACP, has a deal for folks who 
live elsewhere. He's offering a $5,000 reward to any neighborhood 
association that gets the store to relocate.

So far, no takers.

You've probably have heard of Rouson's one-man crusade against Purple Haze 
Tobacco & Accessories Shop, at 1427 S 34th St., and owner Leo Calzadilla.

Rouson was arrested for trespassing at the store after he went there to ask 
that it stop selling pipes. Not surprisingly, store employees did not 
immediately agree to his request. He, in turn, did not depart.

This wasn't his first such arrest. In 2001, he was arrested for taking 11 
glass tubes containing silk roses (tubes commonly used as drug pipes) from 
another local store. The charge was dropped.

Rouson's new court date is April 26. The State Attorney's Office offered 
him a deal if he wrote a letter of apology.

"I told them," he says, "that I would rot in hell before I apologize to a 
man selling those kind of death tools in my community." You can see he 
feels strongly; Rouson freely discusses his own past as an addict.

Rouson faces up to a $1,000 fine and/or 60 days in jail. "If I'm convicted, 
I won't pay the fine or the costs," he told me. "My intent is to go to jail 
and do a hunger strike until the law changes."

Rouson has a plan for that, too. He has found sponsors in the Legislature 
for a bill to study whether stores that sell "tobacco" paraphernalia should 
be required to earn a majority of their revenue from selling actual 
tobacco. He likens it to the law saying that restaurants can serve liquor 
only if most of their revenue comes from food.

I dropped by Purple Haze hoping to see Leo Calzadilla, but he wasn't 
around. However, he has made his position clear in previous interviews: His 
products are meant for tobacco use, period. He gets most of his revenue 
from tobacco products. He won't sell to anyone whom he thinks wants to use 
his pipes for drugs.

The small store is lined with glass countertops displaying hundreds of 
small, individual pipes, most of them glass. Shelves on the walls feature 
larger smoking devices, water pipes or bongs. All are hand-made and 
beautiful, the colors swirling through them. They are a veritable Chihuly 
exhibit of glassworking expertise.

Every single pipe in the store bears a small round sticker saying: "For 
Tobacco Use Only."

WOULD-BE DRUG USER NO. 1: Come, join me in a smoke?

WOULD-BE USER NO. 2: Dude, wait! Your pipe says, for tobacco use only.

USER NO. 1: Darn! Our drug use is foiled. Let us instead engage in healthy, 
character-building activity, such as team sports.

Personally, I think all drugs ought to be legal for adults. People who are 
gonna kill themselves anyway can do it more cheaply, without having to 
break into other people's houses to steal stuff. Meanwhile, life would be 
much simpler for everybody else.

But, the laws being what they are, drugs are illegal. Rouson therefore has 
a fair point: Pipes and bongs near a school on 34th Street S are just as 
worrisome as they would be anywhere else.
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom