Drug paraphernalia is any legitimate equipment, product, or material that is modified for making, using, or concealing illegal drugs such as cocaine, heroin, marijuana, and methamphetamine. Drug paraphernalia generally falls into two categories:
§ User-specific products
§ Dealer-specific products
User-specific products are marketed to drug users to assist them in taking or concealing illegal drugs. These products include certain pipes, smoking masks, bongs, cocaine freebase kits, syringes, marijuana grow kits, roach clips, and items such as hollowed out cosmetic cases or fake pagers used to conceal illegal drugs.
Dealer-specific products are used by drug traffickers for preparing illegal drugs for distribution at the street level. Items such as scales, vials, and baggies fall into this category. Drug paraphernalia does not include any items traditionally used with tobacco, like pipes and rolling papers.
While most of the items listed above have little to no legitimate use to individuals, drug paraphernalia laws can also apply to items that have far more legitimate use than use for illegal drugs. Small mirrors, lighters, rolled up currency, razor blades, credit cards, and spoons have all been used to prosecute people under paraphernalia laws, whether or not they contain residue of illegal drugs (Note: Most paper currency in the United States does contain trace amounts of cocaine and other drugs.
While Federal statute defines paraphernalia with the concept of primary use, in practice this can be interpreted to be what the individual was currently primarily using the item for, allowing for common items to be treated as paraphernalia only in cases where more clear evidence allows such determination of primary use.
Legal controls on the sale of drug paraphernalia
In the United States, under the Federal Drug Paraphernalia Statute, which is part of the Controlled Substances Act, it is illegal to possess, sell, transport, import, or export drug paraphernalia as defined. The law gives specific guidance on determining what constitutes drug paraphernalia. Many states have also enacted their own laws prohibiting drug paraphernalia.
In the United Kingdom the sale of such Drug Paraphernalia is not prohibited by law at present. It is common to find at least one head shop in an average sized town selling Bongs, Pipes, Stash Cans, Herb Grinders etc.
Drug Paraphernalia Sales
With the rise of the drug culture in the United States in the 1960s and 1970s, the country began to see the appearance of head shops which were stores that sold a wide range of drug paraphernalia. While some of the paraphernalia was crude and home-made, much was being commercially manufactured to cater to a fast-growing market. Enterprising individuals even sold items openly in the street, until anti-paraphernalia laws in the 1980s eventually ended such sales. Today, law enforcement faces another challenge. With the advent of the Internet, criminals have greatly expanded their illicit sales to a worldwide market for drug paraphernalia. For example, in a recent law enforcement effort, Operation Pipe Dreams, the 18 companies targeted accounted for more than a quarter of a billion dollars in retail drug paraphernalia sales annually. Typically, such illicit businesses operate retail stores as well as websites posing as retailers of legitimate tobacco accessories when in reality the products are intended for the illegal drug trade.