Pubdate: Mon, 05 Jun 2006
Source: Philadelphia Inquirer, The (PA)
Copyright: 2006 Philadelphia Newspapers Inc
Author: Stu Bykofsky
Bookmark: (Cannabis)


"A woman is only a woman, but a good cigar is a smoke."

- - Rudyard Kipling

"Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar."

- - Sigmund Freud

AND SOMETIMES a certain kind of cigar gets hijacked by druggies.

That dawned on Jerry Rocks last fall when he noticed young adults 
buying Phillies Blunts at the Sunoco APlus near his Fox Chase home. 
The store also carried rolling papers and cigar wrappers (an empty 
rolled sheet of tobacco), both used to smoke marijuana.

Drug paraphernalia, right there in Fox Chase, an upper-middle-class 
chunk of the Northeast with neat homes, clipped lawns and few visible 
signs of decay.

Rocks, 54, wants to keep it that way. To him (he's a detective in the 
D.A.'s office by day) the easy availability of drug gear is a 
harbinger. As spring follows the robin, crime follows drug sales 
because of drug dealers and drug turf. "Gun violence and drugs go 
hand in hand," it says in the Book of Rocks.

What Rocks saw at Sunoco - and Wawa, too - he didn't like. Blunts in 
soda-fountain flavors, rolling papers, fruity wrappers, all sold 
legally, even next to Northeast and St. Hubert's high schools.

Known more for their availability than their quality, blunts are to 
true cigar smokers what the Yugo is to Formula One drivers. Some 
buyers scoop tobacco out of the blunt and reload it with pot, 
sometimes laced with dangerous additives such as cocaine, mushrooms, 
PCP and LSD.

To raise the alarm, Rocks papered the neighborhood with flyers and 
knocked on neighbors' doors like a cop seeking leads. He organized a 
grass-roots group called Not in My Neighborhood. He turned a 
2-by-4-foot pegboard, topped by the familiar yellow-and-blue Sunoco 
trademark, into the Blunt Board, a display of the many types of drug 
paraphernalia sold legally in Philadelphia.

In the Book of Rocks, marijuana is a gateway drug, meaning it leads 
to harder drugs. But if pot always led straight to heroin, half of 
Congress would be junkies.

Rocks' better point is that drug use is wrong for kids, and the 
papers, wrappers and blunts are big "welcome" signs. The 
silver-haired detective has no illusions of stopping the river of 
drugs in America, but he hopes to slow it in his own neighborhood 
before it brings violence.

Ignored at first, he kept hammering at Sunoco and Wawa, calling them 
out on their corporate promises to be good neighbors.

Not in My Neighborhood picketed APlus locations. Last Thursday, Rocks 
stood in front of Sunoco HQ on Market Street with his Blunt Board.

He made himself a pain in the ass.

Sunoco spokesman Gerald Davis told me a vice president earlier met 
with Rocks, and rolling papers and cigar wrappers were ordered out of 
convenience stores about a month ago. He seemed genuinely shocked 
when I told him I bought a Purple Haze wrapper a week earlier at the 
Sunoco station at 7941 Bustleton Ave.

Davis called back to say a letter would go out to all franchisees 
reminding them that rolling papers and wrappers are prohibited. 
Blunts still will be sold.

This brings us to Councilman Brian O'Neill, who attended a Fox Chase 
Homeowners Association meeting, heard the Book of Rocks and saw the 
Blunt Board. O'Neill then introduced a bill to ban the sale of 
blunts, rolling papers, wrappers and other drug paraphernalia.

Since every member of Council signed on as a co-sponsor, passage 
should be assured. If passed, the law would have more teeth than a 
voluntary ban, to which a number of stop-and-go convenience stores 
agreed in late 2004 following an expose of drug paraphernalia by 
former Daily News Urban Warrior Carla Anderson.

Wawa has promised not to oppose O'Neill's bill, and after after 
Rocks' one-man show Thursday in front of Sunoco, he told me Sunoco VP 
of Retail Operations Blake Heinemann told him the oil giant would not 
oppose the bill. When I tried to verify that, Sunoco declined comment.

Will banning drug paraphernalia end our drug plague? No.

Will it help? Yes.

Especially if other community activists start reading from the Book of Rocks.
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MAP posted-by: Beth Wehrman