Pubdate: Tue, 29 Apr 2008
Source: Patriot Ledger, The  (Quincy, MA)
Copyright: 2008 GateHouse Media, Inc.
Bookmark: (Paraphernalia)


PEMBROKE -- Last week's vote in Pembroke to ban the sale of water 
pipes and cigarette paper is a fool's errand that only dupes people 
into thinking they've struck a blow in the war on drug abuse.

If this is wise policy, maybe we should next consider pulling all the 
straws readily available by the drink fountains at Burger King, or 
the aluminum foil just sitting there on the shelves of Stop & Shop. 
And we'll need locked tops on all trash bins to prevent anyone from 
getting hold of an empty soda can.

Because all those items - and thousands more found everywhere from 
Home Depot to 7-11 - can be used to smoke and snort illegal drugs.

Tobacco is a dangerous product that kills half a million people a year.

But it's still legal.

And as long as it's legal, preventing local merchants from selling 
tobacco paraphernalia because it can be used in other ways is misguided.

As tempting as it may be, you can't go into a smoke shop and conclude 
that the water pipe made of dark stained cherry wood is for tobacco 
and the one with the psychedelic design is for marijuana.

There's already a state law that deals with people selling drug 
paraphernalia. But it includes sensible provisions to protect 
merchants who sell legal items that can be used in illegal ways.

Under Massachusetts law, a store owner can face jail time for selling 
certain goods but only if prosecutors can prove "beyond a reasonable 
doubt" that the owner knew they would be used in an illegal manner.

While many merchants in town will have to remove some merchandise 
from their shelves, this primarily targets Karen Brennan Fontana, 
owner of Brennan's Smoke Shop on Church Street, the only smoke shop in town.

For Fontana, this is just the latest attacks on her chain of smoke shops.

Several months ago, Wareham District Court Judge Thomas Barrett found 
Fontana innocent of selling drug paraphernalia.

Police Chief Michael Ohrenberger said he's happy the ban passed. And 
we can understand why anyone who deals with drug abuse would embrace 
anything that seemingly chips away at the problem.

But when such an effort impinges on the livelihoods of innocent 
people - especially when there's nothing to suggest the effort is 
effective in fighting the problem - it's gone too far. 
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MAP posted-by: Richard Lake