Blunting the Blunt Menace


In "Bongs Away," my February 2009 Reason story about drug paraphernalia, I noted that retailers won't necessarily avoid legal trouble by posting signs declaring that the pipes they sell are "for tobacco use only." Under a bill that seems to be on the verge of passage in Illinois, tobacco itself would qualify as drug paraphernalia. The bill, approved by the Illinois Senate on Monday, bans "individual tobacco wrappers, known as wraps, blunt wraps, or roll your own cigar wraps, whether in the form of a tobacco leaf, sheet, or tube, that consist in whole or in part of reconstituted leaf or flavored tobacco leaf." The bill includes an exception for "a tobacco leaf wrap that is used in the manufacturing of a cigar intended for retail sale." But all other cigar wrappers are presumed to be sold for use with marijuana. A minister who supports the ban explains:

Having this product in mainstream stores is like having drug pushers in our neighborhoods. Blunt wraps are an indefensible product marketed to children and entirely identified with illegal drug use.

If pot smokers can't buy wraps, of course, they can always revert to the practice of hollowing out cheap cigars, which indisputably have legal uses. The fact that a ban on blunt wrappers is exceedingly unlikely to reduce marijuana consumption reinforces my point that the crusade against drug paraphernalia is essentially a crusade against positive messages about drugs, a symbolic battle on top of another symbolic battle.