Pubdate: Tue, 14 Nov 2006
Source: Winston-Salem Journal (NC)
Copyright: 2006 Piedmont Publishing Co. Inc.
Note: The Journal does not publish LTEs from writers outside its 
circulation area
Author: Dan Galindo


Winston-Salem Police Use Letter Campaign To Warn Store Owners

In the war on drugs, Winston-Salem police say, local law against the 
sale of rose stems in thin glass tubes is not a weapon they need.

At yesterday's meeting of the City Council public-safety committee, 
police presented their study of Greensboro's ordinance against 
"drug-stems," the apparent novelty items that police say are used as 
makeshift crack pipes.

At some convenience stores, $3 can buy a 4-inch-long glass tube with 
a plastic rose in it.

To use one as a crack pipe, someone takes the lid off, removes the 
rose and puts in a piece of pot scrubber, often one made of copper 
wire, to act as a filter.

Greensboro's ordinance allows officers to give citations to stores 
selling the stems, which carry a $100 penalty.

Greensboro officers have not cited anyone since adopting the 
ordinance in April 2005, Pat Norris, the Winston-Salem police chief, 
wrote in a memo. "In short, a great deal of time was spent on 
enacting the new ordinance" and its effect "appears to be minimal at 
best," Norris wrote.

A state statute allows police to make arrests for the misdemeanor of 
selling drug paraphernalia.

Selling pot-scrubbers next to rose stems, for example, could lead to 
an arrest, as a reasonable person would know they were being sold for 
drug purposes, Assistant Chief Ronnie Abernathy said at the meeting.

The challenge for police is that many items used for doing drugs have 
legitimate uses. Public-safety attorney Julie Risher gave committee 
members the example of police officers searching cars in drug cases 
and finding a soda can fashioned as a crack pipe. "The point is, 
folks who want to ingest illegal substances are very creative in how 
they do it," Risher said.

In Winston-Salem, police have been fighting against the sale of the 
stems by writing letters to store owners, warning them that they 
could face charges if they continue to sell them.

Police may need to do another letter-writing campaign, and undercover 
stings at stores, Abernathy said.

Council members said they want police to do more.

"It's a significant problem, and residents are complaining," Council 
Member Joycelyn Johnson said.
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