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Drug tools legally sold in stores

Items marketed as novelties, legal in Georgia

By Melanie Ruberti

mruberti@civitasmedia.com

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LaGRANGE — If you take a casual stroll through many convenience store or neighborhood corner market in town, you might see drug paraphernalia being sold out in the open inside the businesses.

Sometimes the items are behind the counters or in glass cases, and according to Sgt. Mark Cavender, head of LaGrange Police Department’s Special Investigation Unit, all of it can be legally sold in Georgia.

“It’s all in how it’s marketed,” Cavender explained. “Small baggies used to package drugs are marketed as bags that coin collectors use to collect coins. Bongs are marketed as ‘novelty items.’”

But Cavender said some items may be more disguised than others, like a fake iPhone that is really a set of digital scales or a water bottle that contains a false bottom inside the canister.

“It may look like it is a Mountain Dew bottle, some other soda bottle or water bottle, but it comes apart and you can conceal marijuana or money inside it,” explained Cavender.

Other items include flavored wrappers people can buy to pack their pot into and smoke as a blunt and fake roses encased in glass vases. Cavender said the flowers are usually sitting next to packages of Brillo pads for a reason.

“You break off the end of vase … and put the Brillo pad in it. Then put the crack in it,” he explained. “They’re in the convenience stores, right next to each other.”

Cavender said even if police officers observe someone buying those items together there is nothing they can do about it.

“It does not give (police) probable cause to arrest someone or search them,” he said. “It’s wildly known those items are used to do drugs … but under current Georgia law, it is not illegal to buy those items because you have not committed any crime.”

Businesses cannot be busted for selling them either, Cavender stated.

Vape shops and smoke shops may sell some of these items too. Cavender said many places also stock drinks that claim to help you “flush out” your system of illegal narcotics or help you pass a drug test the next day. Those beverages are also legal to sell in businesses, Cavender stated.

Although tobacco products and some of the drinks may add a disclaimer that patrons be 18 years of age or older, Cavender believes store owners should be held responsible for knowing exactly what they are stocking on the shelves and selling to their customers.

“I find it hard to believe a store owner or entrepreneur is buying these baggies to help customers package their coins,” Cavender said. “Or buying digital scales that look like phones to help them ‘weigh their mail,’ or selling bongs. You’re a convenience store, but the novelty items you’re selling you know is being used to smoke or use drugs.

“The owners are supporting a habit. They’re just as bad as the dealers themselves,” he added.

Melanie Ruberti is a reporter with LaGrange Daily News. She can be reached at 706-884-7311, ext. 2156.