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Protestors to picket ‘pipe’ store Thursday

POSTED: November 23, 2008 5:00 a.m.

Since the beginning of the year, there have been 120 methamphetamine and marijuana arrests in Dawson County, according to statistics compiled by the Dawson County Sheriff’s Office.

  

Almost all of those arrested with meth or marijuana were also found in possession of pipes used to smoke the dangerous and addictive drugs, said Sheriff’s Office Lt. Tony Wooten.

  

Dozens of concerned citizens with a mutual desire to eliminate the growing drug problem in Dawson County, have approval to picket a local convenience store, which refuses to quit selling the pipes, typically used to smoke methamphetamine and marijuana.

  

The protest will be held from 4-6 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 13 at the Chevron station, located along Ga. 400, beside McDonalds.

  

Both the Dawson County Board of Commissioners and the Georgia Department of Transportation have approved the petition to protest spearheaded by the Dawson County Meth Task Force. 

  

Members of the Dawson County Meth Task Force realize they can’t change the world with their initiative to rid the county of retailers who choose to sell drug paraphernalia, but if one life is saved, then the group succeeds, said Wooten.

  

The sheriff’s office has pushed for several years to get the local stores to quit selling the pipes, or bongs, without success, he said.

  

“We’ve wanted to do this for a long time,” said Wooten, now also a member of the Dawson County Meth Task Force.

  

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.

  

“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.

  

Nancy Stites, coordinator of Dawson County Family Connection, said local church groups have agreed to make picket signs, stating, “Shop other stores,” and “We know what these pipes are for,” to be carried Thursday night by protestors.

  

Several church congregations have also 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, two of the four stores complied and quit selling the pipes. A third store agreed to the request, but did not immediately remove the display as of Monday.

  

“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.

  

Wooten followed up with Sanky’s Tuesday morning and the pipes had been removed.

  

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.

  

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

  

To avoid parking problems or congested traffic caused by the protest, The Father’s House Christ Fellowship Church, located at 139 Hightower Parkway, has agreed to shuttle protestors to the picket lines outside the Chevron station Thursday afternoon. Shuttles will begin at 3:45 p.m. and continue approximately every 15 minutes until 6 p.m.

  

For more information, call Nancy Stites at (706) 265-1981.

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