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Group plans protest at store selling drug paraphernalia

POSTED: November 9, 2008 5:00 a.m.

The convenience store owner who refused to stop selling pipes, often used as drug paraphernalia, for fear of losing customers could find the store embroiled in an even bigger controversy.

  

Lt. Tony Wooten of the Dawson County Sheriff’s Office, told the Dawson County Board of Commissioners last week that a group of concerned residents plan to picket the Chevron station at Ga. 400 and Hwy. 53, next to McDonald’s, within the next few weeks if the store will not stop selling the pipes.

  

Wooten said the sheriff’s office has pushed for several years to get the local stores to quit selling the pipes, or bongs, which are typically used to smoke marijuana and methamphetamine, without success.

  

“We’ve wanted to do this for a long time,” said Wooten, now a member of the Dawson County Meth Task Force, which spearheaded the effort to eliminate the sell of drug paraphernalia in the county.

  

The Meth Task Force, along with Family Connection, and several students at Dawson County High School teamed up last month with a plan to try to eradicate the sale of the pipes in local stores.

  

Members of the Meth Task Force understand eliminating the drug problem in Dawson County is a lofty, probably unrealistic, goal.

  

“But getting the paraphernalia out of the stores is a step in the right direction,” Wooten said.

    

“We spend a lot of time talking to kids about not using drugs. These kids know what the pipes are and what they are for, and with them in the stores, they know where to get them,” he said.

  

Several church congregations have also now involved themselves in the fight, as have close to 1,000 local residents, who signed a petition saying they wanted the pipes gone.

  

Since being presented with the signed petitions earlier this month, two of the four stores complied and quit selling the pipes. A third store agreed to the request, but had not removed the display as of Friday.

  

“I went to Sanky’s on Friday, because we wanted to award the stores for doing what we asked and removing the pipes. We were planning to spend a lot of money on candy, snacks and drinks for Red Ribbon Week at the stores, but the pipes were still at Sanky’s,” Wooten said.

  

Instead the two stores that had removed the items received $300 in Red Ribbon business.

  

“We made it known when we talked to the manager at Sanky’s that if the pipe display is not gone by the time we protest the Chevron, her store will be next,” Wooten said.

  

Even with the threat of protests outside the store, during a prime travel time along Ga. 400, the Chevron station management contends they will not quit selling the pipes, despite losing potential business. 

  

“Our customers don’t mind (the pipes) and want them here. We’ve been asking our customers since we learned about this,” said Justin Wittrock, manager of the Chevron. “If our customers want them, we’re going to sell them.”

  

Wittrock also contends the store is not doing anything wrong. The pipes, he said, are legal.

  

The pipes are legal as long as they are sold for tobacco use. However, they are generally used for smoking marijuana and other illegal drugs, said Wooten, who added that nobody is fooled by claims the pipes are for tobacco use.

  

“The one store says they aren’t going to stop selling them because they have one woman customer that smokes tobacco out of the pipe. I’ve never heard of anyone smoking tobacco out of a bong,” Wooten told the board of commissioners on Thursday.

  

The group, which is encouraging residents to boycott the stores that continue to sell the paraphernalia, plans to petition the Chevron station on Nov. 13 from 4:30 - 7:30 p.m., pending approval by the county.

  To avoid parking problems or congested traffic cause by the protest, three area churches have agreed to shuttle protestors to the picket lines outside the store.
 

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