Drug Policy

Passing the Pipe Test

|

Today the New Hampshire Supreme Court issued a ruling in a drug paraphernalia case that may not restore your faith in the legal system but should at least stop you from losing hope entirely. Back in October 2001, police raided Dover's Smoke Signals Pipe and Tobacco Shop, seizing various items they identified as drug paraphernalia. The store's manager, Susan Hargrove, ultimately pleaded guilty to a single charge of selling drug paraphernalia, resulting in a suspended $1,000 fine. As part of the plea agreement, the government returned most of the seized merchandise, including glass pipes, a glass chillum, various water pipes, and metal one-hitters (small, narrow pipes), indicating they were OK to sell.

In March 2004, less than two months after the plea agreement, the same police department raided the same store and seized several of the same items prosecutors had just given back. After the government filed new paraphernalia charges against Smoke Signals, a judge acquitted the company in a bench trial, concluding that Hargrove and her mother, Kelly, the store's owner, could not knowingly have possessed drug paraphernalia, a requirement for conviction under state law, since the items had been returned by the government. But when Smoke Signals filed a motion asking for the merchandise back, the judge said no. Despite the fact that the government had told Susan and Kelly Hargrove the items were not drug paraphernalia, the judge concluded they were, based mainly on the testimony of a detective who conceded he was not an expert on the subject and could not explain the methods he used to identify paraphernalia. Smoke Signals appealed, arguing, among other things, that the state paraphernalia law, which bans items "customarily intended for use" with illegal drugs, is so vague that people cannot reasonably be expected to know when they have violated it.

In today's ruling, the state Supreme Court rejected that argument but nevertheless ordered the return of Smoke Signals' merchandise, saying it could not be considered contraband in light of the store's acquittal on paraphernalia charges and the government's earlier assurances that it was legal:

The State's argument that the items at issue are now—and apparently always have been—contraband, is inconsistent with its own conduct in this case. In January 2004, the State made clear to Smoke Signals that there were six specific categories of items that it could not sell. The State also returned to Smoke Signals certain glass pipes and other items. Presumably at that time, the State did not consider the items it returned to be contraband. Then, the State reversed course and prosecuted Smoke Signals for, as the superior court found, "items virtually indistinguishable from many of the items returned to Smoke Signals after the first prosecution."

While the Hargroves may not have known the pipes were considered drug paraphernalia before, surely by now they realize the government takes a dim view of their merchandise. So once they get it back, maybe the police will seize it a third time.

[Thanks to Jonathan Cohen, Smoke Signals' lawyer, for the tip.]

NEXT: Reason Writers Around Town

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  1. Today the New Hampshire Supreme Court issued a ruling in a drug paraphernalia case that may not restore your faith in the legal system but should at least stop you from losing hope entirely.

    Too late, and this restores nothing. As noted, this sets no president that will prevent future prosecutorial abuse. The arbitrary enforcement of arbitrary law is nothing less than selective prosecution. Nothing that happened today will prevent what happened yesterday from happening tomorrow. This is all very depressing.

    God I need a drink. Time to go home.

  2. metal one-hitters (small, narrow pipes)

    Really?? On this blog we feel the need to explain what a one-hitter is?

    I guess I just assume that almost all people who frequent this site are at least a bit knowledgeable about these things…what with all of the posters who have “have herd” various things about the drug culture from “friends who” smoke pot.

  3. Thank jebus they weren’t selling spoons, lighters, mirrors or razor blades. Oh, wait, I can get all of those at home depot. Nevermind.

  4. Fuck!!! “have herd” should be “have heard”

    And show of hands….who didn’t know/was unable to deduce what a “one-hitter” was?

  5. CT,
    I know what a “one-hitter” is, but what is a “chillum”? I plead drug(of most kinds) ignorance as my only excuse for lack of knowledge.

  6. but what is a “chillum”

    Chillums are small cone-shaped pipes…also knows as “bats”. Usually thicker on the end you put your “tobacco” in — at least that’s what I hear.

  7. The only one-hitter I was familiar with were the kind that King Felix laid on the Red Sox the other day.

    Do I have to turn in my decoder ring?

  8. CT,
    Gracias amigo! One more bit of useless(to me)trivia to keep filed away in my head.

  9. *Hand up!* (probably could have guessed, but I would have also guessed, “one hosed hookah”)

    and have to second Kwix’s question.

    And a question for Kwix – was that you I saw in the 2001 smash hit Out Cold. It’s filmed “near” you, after all 🙂

    Gimme – beautiful!

  10. Nothing that happened today will prevent what happened yesterday from happening tomorrow. This is all very depressing.

    Cheer up, Warren. I’m encouraged to see the narcs get dumber and dumber lately. They’re lining up to take another humiliating defeat from Ed Rosenthal as we speak.

  11. Er, defeat at the hands of Rosenthal.

  12. ChicagoTom,
    You remind me of one of my pet peeves. Whenever someone is smoking a bong on television, (very special episodes and HBO) They never open the carb and clear the chamber. What’s up with that? You can’t tell me there’s no one on that set going “like, you guys are doing it wrong”.

  13. This is the same Supreme Court that ruled that they could destroy seized CDs. They’re completely arbitrary.

    I f**king hate the NHSC.

  14. CT:

    also echo Kwix’s thanks!

    Warren – it’s for the chidren (sic) – so they can’t learn from watching.

    *barf*

    sorry. couldn’t do that without throwing up a bit in my mouth. mmmm. partially digested lobster roll…

  15. Live free or die?

  16. They never open the carb and clear the chamber. What’s up with that? You can’t tell me there’s no one on that set going “like, you guys are doing it wrong”.

    Maybe no one wants to admit that they know the right way to do it?? 🙂

    Nah!! It’s the entertainment industry — they’re all a bunch of stoners.

    The way pot smoking is depicted on TV in general is rather unrealistic — so my pot-smoking friends have told me. Maybe they purposely do it so as not to get criticized for giving the youth ideas??

  17. Chillum

    Really cool photo of chillum in use

    (I couldn’t find the pic I saw years ago of a yogi holding and smoking a chillum with his foot.)

  18. Was the initial raid predates ol’ Johnny Ashcroft’s Operation Pipe Dream.

    I was recalling the day the head shop died (in Pittsburgh, at least) with the proprietor of my new “tobacco accessory” shop I found in Ft. Lauderdale.

    Twas’ a sad day for freedom, but it still put those “damn hippies” out of business…

    not.

  19. The initial raid…

  20. Moose,
    Yeah, I thought about that, but it still don’t make sense. It’s just one of those things that bugs the shit out of me but nobody else even notices I guess. Seeing a smoke filled bong getting passed causes the same vein to throb as hearing someone order a Crown and Coke.

    Aaaahhh $#&@*! stupid neanderfuks.

  21. CT:
    “Maybe they purposely do it so as not to get criticized for giving the youth ideas??”

    VM:
    “Warren – it’s for the chidren (sic) – so they can’t learn from watching. ”

    That settles it! CHICAGO MAKES H&R AWESOMEIST!

    High#: kewl!

  22. Next they’ll be raiding my kitchen for my 2-liter bottles, soda cans, apples, and butter knives.

  23. Is that picture what will happen to your bong or to your dong?

  24. d’oh – Warren – we were cross posting.

    We violated the prime ghostbuster directive, “don’t cross the streams”

    else Dr. T will arrive, dressed as the Stay Puft Marshmellow Man, to wreak havoc on our persons.

  25. “don’t cross the streams” is a particularly important directive when pissing in a trough.

  26. That settles it! CHICAGO MAKES H&R AWESOMEIST!

    State the obvious why don’t you.

    Oh and I feel rather dumb re chillums….the picture accompanying this post is a picture of chillums….dunno why it took me so long to put 2 and 2 together.

  27. ah, yes, the “Wrigley Rule”.

    Although pretending the stream is a light saber and challenging someone (whom you don’t know) to a duel is kinda fun.

    *look on their face, priceless
    *getting teeth put back $1500
    *physical therapy $2800
    *having the story to tell, priceless

  28. The only one-hitter I was familiar with were the kind that King Felix laid on the Red Sox the other day.

    Real Life, 707, Missouri, Vandenberg, Exile — all those bands were one-hitters.

    (“Send Me an Angel,” “I Could Be Good for You,” “Movin’ On,” “Burning Heart,” “Kiss You All Over,” respectively.)

  29. Dude, how long before, like… *cough* *cough* the cops, like raid the pipes again?

  30. OK, this is completely off topic…but I had to share.

    This is the greatest therapy EVER. Now if only I could get my insurance plan to cover it.

  31. Really, Marijuana should be considered an herb, not a drug. So smoking pipes should not be considered “drug paraphernalia.”

    Perhaps with the continuing movement to allow medical use of marijuana, the distinction will be accepted.

  32. Warren,
    Ever seen Weeds.

  33. The reason they are not smoking the “weed” right, is because its not acctaully weed. I don’t think a bong full of tobbaco is that tasty. Unless you watch Trailer Park Boys, they have no problem growing REAL weed for the show, or smoking it! Damn Canadians.

  34. Herr Elch,
    It vas not me in der Actionfilm. I vas in the promised land of der Juden at that time, Florida.

  35. Stevo,

    I am not familiar with any of those songs. Are you sure they were hits?

    And, Everyone,
    This seems like a good thread to drop this on:
    I was trying to figure out why I have been getting Christian spam, so I was poking around and googling “highnumber” and “christian.” One hit was the Internet Infidels discussion board.

    “Reason” editor Radley Balko speculates that Barney Frank is likely the one, and if Rep. Frank states publicly that he’s a Jewish agnostic or even a Jewish atheist, I’m sure that a lot of people will be very perplexed about how that can possibly be. In fact, I wonder how many people think that Judaism is just another Xian sect.

    de stijl responded with two more possibilities:
    Rep. Ken Calvert, R-CA (Protestant / Objectivist)
    Rep. Mary Bono, R-CA (Protestant / Scientologist)

    and highnumber wondered how anyone could be both a Unitarian and a Republican, as Nancy Johnson is, given many Unitarians’ political leanings.

    I don’t want to come across as paranoid, but it seems like there are people keeping tabs on us. I also found a sex offender discussion board that was watching us. Pretty weird, no?

  36. arguing, among other things, that the state paraphernalia law… is so vague that people cannot reasonably be expected to know when they have violated it. In today’s ruling, the state Supreme Court rejected that argument

    I’m with Warren here. This decision is a fuckful of shit.

  37. Wow,

    Yeah, big fat bong rip of tobacco sounds downright unsettling.

    I’d rather have Michael J. Fox shave my nuts with a straight-razor…

  38. Kwix.

    ach. Ich see. Zo zis vas not yoo? hier?

    vee are not schur if dat iz zee kase.

  39. MP,
    Holy shit that is downright criminal!!

  40. Warren, it bugs me too (e.g., Spicoli’s bong full of thick white smoke when Mr. Hand visits him at home). So wasteful!

  41. VM,
    Doubt it, but alas I cannot view the Youtube from my current location. The line is not safe.

  42. Highnumber,
    Welcome to my world buddy.

  43. I personally have never tried drugs (so I missed needed the explanation), but now I’m really curious about trying some of whatever the police, prosecutors, and investigators were obviously smoking.

  44. (it was the “vot time iz it? time to unpimp zee auto” VW ad)

    Kwix – how so?
    High#: wow! where else? where else?

  45. Crazy.

    IIRC, they put away Tommy Chong over the same issue.

    Sigh, someday our grandchildren will look back on the War on Drugs the way we look back on Socrates being put to death by the Athenians.

  46. Or, more contemporaneously, the way we look at our grandparents for considering homosexuality to be a crime, a mental disease, or both.

  47. TallDave,

    Funny how the government in Athens forced drug use in the case of Socrates.

    History is not without a certain sense of irony.

  48. VM,

    I found this for you

    *Lady whispers to Joe*

    “You know that Matty has a moose in our room now, right? He’s calling it the Viking Moose. It smells horrible.”

    “I don’t think anything could smell worse than Draco.”

    “Good point.”

    “So, this moose, what would happen if I put C4 all over it?”

    “First, let’s take it into Shadow’s room, and THEN we’ll put C4 on it. But you have to let me help press the detonater.”

    “Done,” says Joe as he and Lady go up to her room to kidnap the Viking Moose.

    I’d be extra scared if I were you.

  49. Get me an apple, some aluminum foil, a knife and a two foot length of tubing. I’ve made bongs out of less ( a soda can).

  50. Get me an apple, some aluminum foil, a knife and a two foot length of tubing.

    No.
    I’m not falling for this one again.

    Him – Hey, highnumber, just bring me an apple, some aluminum foil, a knife and a two foot length of tubing and I’ll smoke you up.

    Me – Okay, sounds great!

    Him – Just walk right in when you get here.

    Me – Okay.

    Him – The lights will be out. I’ll be in the basement.

    Me – Got it. See you soon!

    I’m still trying to track down the kidney, every time I get those movies taken off one dirty website, they pop up somewhere else, and I think something is growing inside me.

  51. I live in Riverside County, and Rep Ken Calvert is not an Objectivist. He is a typical GOP statist.

    Mary Bono does appear to have connections with the Church of Scientology. The Church of Scientology owns alot of land in her district, and operate their film studios there, so she might associate with them just because they are a local business operation.

  52. [Oh and I feel rather dumb re chillums….the picture accompanying this post is a picture of chillums….dunno why it took me so long to put 2 and 2 together. ]

    How come they resemble dildos?

  53. Clear you bong! There are kids going sober in China!

    They can take our waterpipes, but they’ll never take our coke bottles, bic pens, plumbing pieces, and duct tape!

  54. How much is this costing?

  55. Jeff | April 18, 2007, 6:25pm | #
    Warren,
    Ever seen Weeds.

    Yes, I have. I’m conflicted about that show. On the one hand, they get everything pot related right. The way it’s smoked, sorted, grown, handled, dealt, all the dope details. So on the one hand it’s like ‘finally they got it right’. (Leave it to Showtime) On the other hand it’s really just Desperate Housewives with weed. I have similar issues with HBO’s Rome.

  56. *looks around nervously. but joe isn’t here*

    *sneaks off – glad to know How Not to Be Seen*

  57. Candy Mountain, highnumber! Candy Mountain!

  58. Candy Mountain?

  59. Interesting. My state (Michigan) just passed a law banning all paraphernalia, but is leaving it up to the local prosecutor’s to determine whether or not to enforce, which ended up with the city I recently moved to (Traverse City for those of you familiar with Northern MI) having to close down the head shop, while the shops in Grand Rapids haven’t even heard about this legislation.

  60. ISD,
    Ahh Purple East. So many memories, all the way back to the 70’s.

  61. Clear your bong!

    Gah! Fixed that for me…

  62. Highway,

    I live in a cave by those Buddha statues the Taliban blew up. A couple times a week I travel 7000 miles to an internet cafe in Chicago to read Hit & Run. I’ve missed a lot.

    (No soundcard at work. Honestly, I have missed a lot.)

  63. Warren: I too have great memories of Purple…that’s where I bought my first piece of paraphernalia at the tender age of 15…ahh yes. Although, I have come to prefer Shakedown Street to Purple East. They tend to have a little bit better selection and prices.

  64. ISD,
    Good to know. I left GR couple of years ago, but still get back from time to time.

Please to post comments

Comments are closed.