Three local convenience stores asked by a group of residents to stop selling glass pipes, often used as drug paraphernalia, removed displays from their shelves Monday.
A fourth store, the Chevron on Ga. 400 next to McDonalds, does not plan to comply with the group’s request, said store manager Justin Wittrock.
“Our customers don’t mind them and want them here. We’ve been asking our customers since we learned about this,” he said. “If our customers want them, we’re going to sell them.”
The Meth Task Force of Dawson County, 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.
“They’re legal. We’re not doing anything wrong,” said Wittrock. “They also have to be 18 to buy them, just like if they’re buying cigarettes.”
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 Lt. Tony Wooten of the Dawson County Sheriff’s Office and a member of the Meth Task Force.
Monday afternoon, Wooten presented the stores with more than 500 signatures from community members supporting the removal of the pipes.
“We told them we have 500 signatures of people who want these off your shelves. These are 500 signatures of people who will not shop at your store if you don’t do it,” Wooten said.
Jasmine Gadhia, manager at Sankys, contacted an attorney before making her decision. But she said she determined those 500 signatures were more important than a few dollars a month the store could make from selling the pipes.
“We don’t want to hurt or lose our business, and we don’t want to do anything the community doesn’t want us to,” she said. “We’re taking them out. The vendor will be here in the morning to pick them up.”
Wooten said one store owner was concerned when a vendor set up the display.
“He said he wondered then if the pipes were even legal to sell,” Wooten said.
Wooten said nobody is fooled by claims the pipes are for tobacco use.
“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.
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.
The next step, according to Doris Cook, president of the task force, is to organize rallies or protest against the store or stores that do not remove the pipes.
“We just want a safe place for our kids without the temptations. Maybe if it’s not so easy to find these, then maybe the kids won’t drink and do drugs and take it to the next level,” she said.
Cook said the task force is in the process of securing proper permits to protest outside stores.
“Then we’ll be out there with the students and the churches protesting, too,” she said.
E-mail Michele Hester at firstname.lastname@example.org.