Raleigh, NC: Federal authorities this week raided six businesses and seized nearly 3,800 glass pipes and other items commonly associated with marijuana smoking as part of an ongoing federal investigation dubbed "Operation Pipecleaner." The raids follow a directive issued last year by U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft, and mark the third time in the past 12 months that Department of Justice officials have targeted businesses for selling pipes and other paraphernalia "intended or designed to be used ingesting, inhaling or otherwise using controlled substances."
Though none of the store-owners were arrested in the raids, criminal indictments are possible, according to published reports by the Associated Press. 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."
Last September, a federal judge sentenced 65-year-old actor/comedian Tommy Chong to nine months in prison and fined him $20,000 for selling glass pipes on the Internet through his business, Nice Dreams Enterprises.
NORML Foundation Executive Director Allen St. Pierre condemned the federal raids, calling them evidence of the administration's gravely misplaced priorities. "At a time when our nation is engaged in a 'War on Terror,' 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 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."
For more information, please contact Allen St. Pierre of the NORML Foundation at (202) 483-5500. For more information on NORML's "Free Tommy Chong" campaign, please visit: