“We made a decision we're going after every single shop that sells drug paraphernalia.”—City Attorney Mike Aguirre, CityBeat, Nov. 28, 2007Dear Mike Aguirre: Are you nuts? Do you really believe that anybody will stop doing drugs if you shut down the paraphernalia suppliers? We druggies are highly resourceful. Pot smokers can carve apples into elaborate smoking devices with a nail file they fabricate from possum bones when necessary. Your typical tweaker can comb an eight-ball out of the carpet with a pair of chopsticks. These are imaginative people, sir—they will not be forestalled.As reported by CityBeat staff writer Eric Wolff, the city attorney sent letters to 52 smoke shops, ordering them to stop selling drug paraphernalia.
Question: If I can get all the hash, weed, coke, crack, smack and speed I need, do you think I'll have any trouble whatsoever finding devices with which to consume them? Do you really believe, if your interdict succeeds, that one less bong hit will be sucked or one less gram snorted, cooked or smoked? As a recreational consumer of narcotics, I can tell you that I don't see that happening.
Cracking down on head shops is like changing “french fries” to “freedom fries” or invading Iraq to stop terrorism. It is an utterly vacuous act designed to swindle people into believing their government is doing something about a problem which government exaggerated in the first place.
“They're marketing to younger people,” Aguirre said. “We see lots of youngsters going in and buying… all that crap.”Don't you just love how he pours on the “save the children” sauce and expects us to slurp it all up without question? I challenge Mike Aguirre to show exactly where and how they market to kids. As a person who frequents smoke shops, reads their ads and uses their products, I just don't see it. OK, maybe somebody out there somewhere has a Sponge Bob Square Bong on his shelf, but isn't it more likely they're marketing it as humorous bong irony for adults and not 8-year-olds?
Sponge Bob, as everyone knows, is hilarious when you're baked.
Also, I find it suspicious when Aguirre says “we see” a lot of youngsters buying. As a person who frequents the local narcotoriums, I'm just not seeing it. My experience is that these shops avoid selling to minors because they're terrified of getting shut down. And if by “we see” he meant the police, who staked out the shops, I have to wonder: If they really witnessed clerks selling to kids, why didn't they bust them right then? It is illegal to sell tobacco products to minors, right? Why didn't they confiscate the contraband and arrest the clerks? Certainly, it would be to their advantage to do so. A few “harmful matter to minors” busts would have gathered significantly more support for the cause. So, no, Mike, I don't think you or any of your morality commandos saw squat. I think you're just playing the “save the children” card to demonize the head shops and turn the public against them.
Even if it were true that they're selling to kids, well, so what? If this were truly the problem, then all you need to do is enforce existing laws about selling to minors and—boom!—exaggerated non-problem solved.
It's incredible that we're even having this discussion.
How much of a thought policeman do you have to be to criminalize a product that might be used for illegal purposes? Guess you'd better ban butter knives, too, because you can break all sorts of laws with one of those razors of Satan. For instance, you can use a butter knife to: mug a tourist, torture the neighborhood pets, stab somebody in the neck, hijack a plane, stir Rohypnol into a drink, cut graffiti into trees that says things like “Mike Aguirre is a self-involved power-monger.”
Just as a butter knife can be used for illegal purposes, anything sold in a head shop can be used legally. But it's really not about the paraphernalia. The issue is the clientele. Nobody's going after the tobacconists for selling rolling papers? And I'm quite certain the narcotoriums aren't the only place where you can buy vials, scales or screens. The problem isn't the individual items—rather, it's that these items are stocked under one roof, together, a one-stop shopping mart that attracts drug users, thereby horrifying the community, which, by the way, has been whipped into a rabid fear of recreational drug users by their government, who will now step in and solve the non-problem for them.
“The shops attract a very negative element,” said Arthur Schwartz, president of the North Park Community Association.
Well, what do you know, yet another community leader spreading around gobs of fear marmalade with the butter knife of moral superiority.
Dear Mr. Schwartz, as a person who frequents head shops, I can tell you, I'm not seeing it. In all my years, I never saw no robberies, no beat-downs, no weapons displayed nor used, no episodes of sidewalk harassment. In fact, I've seen far more problems in nightclubs, 7-Elevens and Roberto's Mexican joints than I have ever seen in any smoke shack.
So, piss off, North Park Community Association. I am not a negative element. Nor are my friends or their friends or the thousands of people citywide who patronize these stores. We are regular people with regular jobs and regular families who contribute to this town in all our regular ways and who have earned the right to consume our recreational chemicals of choice every bit as much as the smoker, the boozer, the dipper, the snuffer, the Big Mac eater and the soda popper.
If anyone is a negative element, it's you people. Because you bully people into obeying your myopic moral code, target small businessmen to crush their livelihood and use your clout like a cleaver, just like that sue-happy Mike Aguirre, whose morality I'll hold mine against any day of the week. Write to email@example.com and firstname.lastname@example.org. For more vapid burbling, visit www.edwindecker.com.