November 30, 2004
DEA Detroit Takes a Strong Stance Against Drug Paraphernalia Sales
Detroit, MI- As drug use continues to decline in the United States, drug related entrepreneurs have become increasing shrewd in their marketing attempts to lure new customers and retain existing customers. One area that does not generate as much attention as some others but is just as important to enforce is the distribution of drug paraphernalia. Drug paraphernalia sales are a multi-billion dollar business world wide with a large amount of those profits being generated from sales in the United States. The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) is establishing new initiatives in conjunction with our local counterparts to utilize both federal and local laws to stop the sale of drug related paraphernalia. Many of these outlets and websites are targeting teenagers and young adults in an effort to get them introduced to the drug culture. Many of these websites contain advanced graphics and cartoon characters which will appeal to a young audience.
The DEA and the Detroit Police Department have joined forces to combat drug paraphernalia sales in Southeast Michigan. The primary retail distributors of this illegal merchandise are gas stations, “head shops” and liquor stores. These items are being sold in public view at locations frequented by children. Through several significant investigations, the DEA along with our federal counterparts have targeted nationally and internationally the importers of this paraphernalia which is generally produced in China and the Far East. Websites have also been established overseas in Europe and elsewhere to insulate them from US laws. Many of these distributors hide from and circumvent the law by trying to disguise their merchandise as “legitimate” legal tobacco related products. This is a veil attempt to avoid prosecution under federal drug laws. The DEA reminds parents of the significant dangers that can present themselves to children using the internet. Drug dealers and paraphernalia sellers market to young people to get their money early, they market using the internet and fancy graphics that appeal to the young and they seek to create brand and drug loyalty to benefit the distributors financially.
The DEA Detroit High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area (HIDTA Gp. 8) has taken the lead in investigating and enforcing violations of the federal paraphernalia statutes. The DEA HIDTA Group has already had an impact on the availability of drug paraphernalia in the City of Detroit. DEA Group 8 recently seized over 334,000 “love rose” crack pipes that were destined for retail outlets in Detroit. The retail value of this seizure was $1.3 million dollars. These “love roses” are a clear Pyrex glass tube about five inches long containing a miniature synthetic rose inside. The rose is sold in the crack pipe so that retailers can attempt to deny responsibility that they violated paraphernalia laws. These pipes are used by crack users who remove the rose, place a small piece of metal screening or scrubbing pad that holds the crack in place while it’s smoked. These pipes are sold in liquor stores and gas stations for $.4.00 each. They only cost a couple of pennies to produce so it’s easy to see that these drug related facilitators are reaping huge illegal profits. By placing these items in the view of children, it gives them the perception that drug use is acceptable and tolerated. The DEA is sending the message that this is not acceptable or to be tolerated. Using federal paraphernalia laws (21 USC 863) which state:
It is unlawful for any person-
(1) to sell or offer for sale drug paraphernalia
(2) to use the mails or any other facility of interstate commerce to transport drug paraphernalia
(3) to import or export drug paraphernalia
Any person found guilty of violating this federal law faces imprisonment for up to three years.
The term “drug paraphernalia” means any equipment, product or material of any kind which is primarily intended or designed for use in manufacturing, compounding, converting, concealing, producing, processing, preparing, ingesting, injecting, inhaling or otherwise introducing into the human body a controlled substance.
Manufacturers, distributors and retailers of these dangerous items have sought to circumvent the law by claiming that their products are designed for legal tobacco purposes. Common sense and the courts have thus far sided with law enforcement in these cases.
The DEA Detroit Division will continue to investigate these paraphernalia cases and do all that is necessary to protect America’s youth from the scourge of drugs and those that facilitate violations our narcotics laws.