Smoking devices scrutinized

A new bill could outlaw selling and possessing smoking “accessories.”

by Courtney Blanchard

A proposed state law could mean woe for those who will have to find a wily way to smoke weed.

Sen. Amy Koch, R-Buffalo, proposed a bill to outlaw the sale and possession of glass pipes, bongs and other smoking “accessories” that could be considered drug paraphernalia.

Currently, stores like The Hideaway in Dinkytown sell pipes under the presumption they’ll be used for tobacco only.

Koch and other sponsors of the bill didn’t return calls last week.

Vanessa Windschitl, 20, has worked at The Hideaway since August. When she started, management trained her on what kind of terminology is unacceptable in the store.

“We try to correct the customer if they use drug lingo,” she said. “But usually if they don’t comply, we kick them out.”

That’s pretty rare, she said. Most people browsing the glassware collection Friday kept to protocol, referring to the sparkly, neon-swirled pipes as “tobacco accessories.”

Brooke Johnson, 23, answered customers’ questions about the merchandise, quickly jumping in to correct anybody who said anything “imposing.”

Johnson said the owner expressed concerns about the proposed law, but because lawmakers repeatedly failed to pass such a law over the years, few employees at the store expressed concern.

“I’m just worried that it’s finally going to (pass),” she said. “If it did pass, we’d probably have to close the store.”

One campus-area tobacco shop employee, who spoke under the condition of anonymity for fear of losing his job, said he hopes the law passes.

“I don’t even like selling these things,” he said, pointing to a case full of dusty pipes.

He added that the pipes are clearly intended for one purpose, and he doesn’t like dealing with the customers. Also, the store rarely sells any because most customers go to head shops for such things.

Asian languages and literature sophomore Daniel Matus said he thinks the law will be ineffective.

“I don’t think it would stop anybody from using drugs,” he said. “It might just change the way, or how easy it is.”

Matus said he owns a hookah for smoking shisha, a flavored tobacco. Though hookah sales would still be allowed under the proposed law, Matus said he’s concerned the law could go too far, and someday even his hookah could be banned.

“Who or what determines what smoking devices are allowed?” he said. “If the law passed, it could become increasingly difficult to differentiate between (legal and illegal) products.”

The law isn’t scheduled for a hearing yet, and a Koch aide said it was not yet determined if the bill would even make it on the agenda.

Pending Senate, House and the governor’s approval, the law would go into effect Aug. 1, sparing one more April 20.

But after that, “a person who knowingly possesses a bong, dugout, glass pipe, marijuana pipe, or one-hit pipe (would be) guilty of a petty misdemeanor,” according to the legislation. Petty misdemeanors are punishable by a fine of no more than $300.