Even as Laws Change, the ‘M’ Word is Banned in Head Shops

Head shop in Canada
Source: LA Times

All through the years, the stores selling marijuana accessories like bongs and pipes insisted that these products were for tobacco usage and chose their words carefully to avoid being punished by laws against weed smoking. Now that states across the country have decreased the penalties on marijuana possession, the state, local and federal laws have changed a little at the head shops like ItsPrimo. The map of the country is so colorful in the matter of where you can buy marijuana lawfully without having to use code words.

Marijuana has been decriminalized in almost seventeen states meaning that the possession but not sale, of small quantities, does not incur a crime and fine. Four states including Alaska, Washington, Oregon and Colorado and the District of Columbia have completely legalized weed creating a pot marketplace approved by the state. In 2014, Philadelphia lawmakers legalized the possession of about an ounce of cannabis and anybody possessing a higher amount gets fined.

At Wonderland, however, head shops refuses sale with a mere mention of marijuana. A clerk at this store said even if somebody mentions medical marijuana, he cannot sell to him. He refused to comment further and identify the store manager. Such a situation is quite ironic after the legalization of marijuana in the United States but not at all surprising for marijuana activists who occasionally protest with hundreds of weed-smoking people and a police escort. The protest aimed to show that it was possible to smoke weed in front of police even when people are not free to discuss marijuana in stores. A large number of people were interviewed in reference to this story and they pointed to Operation Pipe Dreams that arrested more than 50 people for distribution of drug equipment. The group also included Tommy Chong belonging to the comedy duo Cheech and Chong. He was imprisoned for nine months and was guilty of selling the ‘Chong Bong’ delivered to an undercover business.

Even in areas where possession of minor amounts of weed is decriminalized, laws still apply. Possessing a pipe containing weed residue leads to a fine of $500 as well as a criminal record. Legalization of marijuana in the District of Columbia has changed the conversation entirely according to the owner of a head shops raided in 2011. Few years back, he was forced once a day or more to drive customers away from his store uttering the banned ‘M’ word. He even used to play loud music in the store to avoid being caught by police surveillance. He said they sold pipes for weed but if somebody mentioned marijuana, he would ask them to leave even when he and every other store owner knew that the pipes were going to be used to smoke marijuana.

He had closed down the shop in 2012 and could re-open it sometime back after a campaign led to legalize weed smoking in the capital city. Giving the customers the freedom to say what they want without the worry of getting the business shut changes the dynamics with the customers.