At 5:30 a.m. on May 10, armed men broke into the bedroom of Kirk Kyle Farrar's 12 year-old daughter and shook her awake. The men led her downstairs at gunpoint and forced her to lie on the floor next to her mother and father, with her hands behind her head. Another armed man took Farrar's two-year-old son from his crib, and would not let his parents hold him. "My son screamed for his mother for what seemed like an eternity," Farrar wrote in an email to friends, obtained by Reason. "I will never forget the hopeless feeling of not being able to comfort my son or daughter."
The armed men who broke into Farrar's home were officers with the Meridian, Idaho, Police Department and the Drug Enforcement Administration. They were executing a federal warrant for Farrar's arrest for the crime of selling bongs.
Farrar's wasn't the only family traumatized that morning. Agents from the Drug Enforcement Administration, the U.S. Marshals Service, the Idaho National Guard, and four Idaho police departments raided the homes of 13 other headshop owners and employees on May 10. All of the headshops had their inventory seized. One shop lost more than $80,000 worth of merchandise (bongs and pipes marketed as "tobacco water pipes"). Another headshop owner had his and and his employees' vehicles seized.
The investigation into these 13 shops and their employees (two of which are still at large) for selling drug paraphernalia was led by U.S. Attorney Wendy J. Olson, a Barack Obama appointee. Nine of the shops were also accused of selling "spice," a synthetic alternative to the prohibited and significantly safer drug marijuana.
In his email, Farrar denies selling spice. "Piece of Mind Boise has never carried these products EVER! We made a commitment from the start not to carry it because we believe it is dangerous and not being used in a legal fashion."
He also notes that his cousin, "[who] has never previously committed a crime and has absolutely no criminal record," has been charged with "with 4 Federal felony charges stemming from selling tobacco products."
"The open sale of drug paraphernalia promotes unlawful drug use and helps drug traffickers thrive," Olson said at a press conference on May 10. "These indictments show federal, state and local law enforcement partners will attack drug trafficking on all fronts."
During a speech at the Center for American Progress earlier this month, Drug Czar Gil Kerlikowske said that the law enforcement-only approach to America's drug problem was not "humane, compassionate" or "realistic." He also said that the Obama administration does not believe it can "arrest its way out of the drug problem."
Reason spoke to one headshop owner. At his attorney's behest, this owner declined to go on the record, but did say that local police had been aware of the store's existence and sales of glass pipes for years, but had never threatened charges or discouraged the business from operating. The owner believes that the raids came at the behest of federal law enforcement officials.
According to the Idaho Statesman, "the DEA, Idaho National Guard, IRS and the U.S. Marshals and Attorney's offices worked on the case," which the agencies built over the course of an entire year.
As if more evidence were needed that President Obama's drug war looks a lot like George W. Bush's: The charges against Farrar and the other Idaho headshop owners are reminiscent of the federal prosecution of actor Tommy Chong under Bush's DOJ. Chong was convicted in 2003 for distributing paraphernalia through his company Nice Dreams Enterprises. Chong was fined $20,000, and made to forfeit his domain name, all of his inventory, and $103,514 in cash.
From Reason.tv: "Obama's War on Bongs: Capitol Hemp Edition"