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War On Terrorism Takes A HolidayJustice Department Conducts Nationwide Sweep Of Glass Pipe Manufacturers, Indicts 55 On Federal Drug "Paraphernalia" Charges

Thursday, 27 February 2003

Those Charged Face Three Years In Prison, $250,000 Fine

Washington, DC: Federal authorities indicted 55 people and raided more than 100 homes and businesses including the residence of actor Tommy Chong - for allegedly selling glass pipes commonly associated with marijuana smoking, the US Department of Justice announced on Monday.

The indictments and subsequent raids resulted from a pair of ongoing federal investigations dubbed "Operation Pipe Dreams" and "Operation Headhunter" targeting online sellers of glass tobacco pipes, which federal law enforcement officials allege are "primarily intended or designed to be used in ingesting, inhaling or otherwise using controlled substances." Storefronts in California, Pennsylvania, Iowa and other states that sold pipes and similar merchandise were also raided. Members of the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), US Secret Service, US Marshals Service, US Customs Service, and the US Postal Inspection Service all participated in the federal investigation.

Those indicted face a maximum three years in prison and/or a $250,000 fine per count on charges that they sold or conspired to sell various types of drug "paraphernalia." Actor Tommy Chong was not indicted, though raids were conducted on both his business (Chong's Glass) and home.

NORML Executive Director Keith Stroup called the federal raids "extreme" and "absurd" in light of recent terror threats made against the lives of American citizens. "At a time when our nation is at an elevated risk of a terror attack, it is preposterous that the Justice Department would waste limited federal law enforcement resources chasing after sellers of products such as roach clips and rolling papers, products which are legally sold at tobacco stores all across America," he said.

"These businesses pay taxes and do not in any way contribute to the crime problem in America. In addition, the day-to-day operations of these businesses are arguably a local or state matter, and should not be of concern to the federal government. Federal efforts would undoubtedly be better served keeping a bomb out of the hands of Al Qaeda than keeping a bong out of the hands of a marijuana smoker."

Although many of the stores raided by federal law enforcement remain open for business, Attorney General John Ashcroft said that the federal government is seeking legal approval to redirect the websites of some online glass retailers to the DEA¹s own homepage. According to federal policy, the DEA may share information about those who log on to their site with other federal and law enforcement agencies.

For more information, please contact Keith Stroup of NORML at (202) 483-5500. Those who wish to express their opinion opposing the Feds' action, may send a prewritten letter to the US Attorney General's office by visiting: http://capwiz.com/norml2/issues/alert/?alertid=1510556





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