Battling Back on Blunts

NYACS bluntly refutes Rochester enforcement initiative

Published in CSP Daily News

ROCHESTER, N.Y. -- Controversy has erupted in Rochester, N.Y., where a police task force is threatening to arrest retailers if they don't stop selling blunts and blunt wrappers, according to the New York Association of Convenience Stores.

Under the auspices of the Greater Rochester Area Narcotics Enforcement Team (GRANET), police are claiming these products serve no purpose other than to smoke marijuana, and therefore should be treated as drug related paraphernalia" under the law.

With all due respect, these are legal [image-nocss] tobacco products that our members are licensed by the State of New York to responsibly sell to adult customers, said James Calvin, president of the New York Association of Convenience Stores, Albany, N.Y. No one questions their commitment to fighting drug abuse, but they are clearly overreaching.

GRANET has been visiting stores, showing owners and managers the products they consider to be drug paraphernalia, ordering them to remove those items from the shelves, and requiring them to sign a statement that they have been advised of the products in my store that are in violation. NYACS has cautioned its members to confer with legal counsel before signing any such self-incriminating statement, since there is no legal basis for concluding that anyone has violated the law.

According to Calvin, GRANET claims these types of blunts' or cigars serve no legitimate purpose other than the smoking of marijuana and threatens to arrest retailers under Section 851 of New York State's General Business Law, which makes it a civil offense to sell drug-related paraphernalia, defined in part as objects, used or designed for the purpose of ingesting, inhaling, or otherwise introducing marijuana, cocaine, hashish, or hashish oil into the human body.

Calvin pointed out that the state's Public Health Law includes cigars, rolling papers and "other tobacco products" in its definition of tobacco products that are legal for licensed establishments to sell as long as they are not sold to persons younger than 18.