Pubdate: Fri, 19 Jan 2007
Source: Wichita Eagle (KS)
Copyright: 2007 The Wichita Eagle
Author: Christina M. Woods
Bookmark: (Paraphernalia)
Bookmark: (Crime Policy - United States)


Palm-sized scales and four-inch glass stems with red roses sit among
the tobacco products behind a thick window pane at the Noori
Convenience store at 25th North and Hillside.

The Wichita Branch NAACP considers them drug paraphernalia -- the
stems can be used to smoke or snort drugs; the scales can weigh tiny
amounts of drugs -- and is working on a proposal to outlaw their sale.

Irshad Kazia, the store's owner, said it's not his business what
people use the items for.

He just sells them.

He pointed Thursday to a tire gauge and said, "If they want to use the
tire gauge (to smoke drugs), they can use that."

He questioned why the NAACP would target glass stems and other
products and not liquor or tobacco, which also are harmful.

"They'd have to make a rule for everything," he said.

Kevin Myles, president of the Wichita Branch NAACP, said it could take
more than one legislative session to push the proposal through, but
the NAACP is committed.

"This is not an effort to arrest more people," he said. "But if it's
wrong for people to possess it, then it's got to be wrong to sell it."

The items are for sale at a number of convenience stores -- mostly
small, independently owned stores -- throughout the city. But under
current law, something isn't considered paraphernalia unless it
contains drug residue.

The NAACP wants to close that loophole and make the definition of drug
paraphernalia more specific to cover such things as glass stems and
pipes on key chains.

At least 45 states have laws regulating drug paraphernalia in some
way, according to the National Conference of State

Wichita Deputy Police Chief Tom Stolz said police "would support
anything that would stop the use of illicit drugs in the community."

Store owners have a loophole, he said, that allows them to get away
with selling such items.

"You have to prove intent," he said. "It's going to be tough because
people will sell that stuff and say it's for tobacco usage.

"Never in 25 years of policing have I found someone smoking tobacco
out of a bong."

But Myles said that having better definitions for paraphernalia should
eliminate the need to prove intent.

Not every independent convenience store owner carries the glass stems
and other merchandise that could appeal to drug users.

Will Beach, who owns Moore's Smoke Shop near 13th and Vesta, is among

He said he doesn't want to open himself to questioning from police who
may stop one of his customers and find them with drugs.

"To avoid all of that, I just don't do it," he said, adding that he
also doesn't believe such merchandise belongs in the community.

State Sen. Donald Betts Jr., D-Wichita, and state Rep. Oletha
Faust-Goudeau, D-Wichita, have agreed to introduce the proposal during
the Legislature's current session.

"To make it so easily available only dilutes the very system we've
created" against drugs, Betts said.

Myles said the proposal could go before members of the south-central
Kansas legislative delegation within two weeks.

The local NAACP is studying laws nationwide to find models for its

Myles said North Carolina's law and Greensboro's city ordinance are
among the strongest he's seen.

Greensboro's ordinance, for example, contains lengthy descriptions of
"drug stems" and the grounds on which their intended use can be
determined, including written or oral instructions for their use or
the manner in which they're displayed for sale.

Greensboro police Detective James Armstrong said he went undercover in
2005 to buy "crack kits" from about 20 convenience stores.

For about two weeks, he said, he caught on videotape multiple clerks
showing him how to prepare pipes for use with drugs.

Of the store owners' intent, he said, "I don't think anybody can
misconstrue it."

Greensboro's ordinance took effect in May 2005 and carries a $100 fine
for each violation, plus additional penalties for each day the
business is in violation.

Sharon Laudick, director of the Options Adult Services and Options
Youth Services treatment programs in Wichita, said the glass stems and
pipes often go unnoticed by people who aren't substance abusers or who
don't know anyone who abuses drugs.

"But it's among the talk on the streets," she said. "It's pretty
widely known from kids to adults."

Peggy Franklin-El, a former drug addict who has been clean for 15
years, said store owners have a responsibility.

"They need to realize what's more important -- to have a safe
community or for them to make money off of this mess," she said.

"Now that you are being informed that this is drug paraphernalia and
you still want it to be in your store, what you're telling me is that
it's all right for people to get high." 
- ---
MAP posted-by: Richard Lake