Merchant says court action to stop her selling pipes is unfair

January 05, 1995|By Alan J. Craver | Alan J. Craver,Sun Staff Writer

An Ellicott City businesswoman claims that Howard County officials are unfairly trying to prevent her from selling smoking pipes, a venture she gave up after her arrest on drug-related charges in July.

But Howard solicitors assert in court papers filed two weeks ago that a 1980 county law permits them to seek an injunction to prohibit the sale of drug paraphernalia.

The county asked Howard Circuit Judge Cornelius Sybert Jr. on Dec. 22 to issue an injunction against Debra Ann Smith and her Main Street shop, Moon Star Uniques, where more than 100 smoking pipes -- including bongs -- were seized by police last summer.

Senior Assistant Solicitor F. Todd Taylor said this is the first time the county has sought a civil injunction to block the selling of bongs and smoking pipes. A hearing on the request for the injunction has not been set.

County and state laws contain a long list of items classified as drug paraphernalia, including numerous types of pipes.

But Ms. Smith's lawyer contends that the laws are too vague because they don't say if the items can have legal uses.

Regardless of the outcome of the case, Ms. Smith said, she does not intend to sell smoking devices any longer. "I chose not to carry them," she said.

Ms. Smith, her son and a shop employee were charged with possession of drug paraphernalia and intent to sell the items after a July 6 raid. The employee also was charged with possessing a small amount of marijuana in her purse.

Ms. Smith, who has a county license to sell tobacco and smoking devices, contends that the county is pursuing the injunction because police officers did not find any drugs in the shop.

"I think it's ridiculous," said Ms. Smith, of the 4000 block of Dorsey Hall Drive, Ellicott City. "I didn't do anything illegal."

Ms. Smith opened Moon Star in September 1993, selling vintage clothing, jewelry and antiques. She obtained a county license to sell tobacco products and smoking devices in January 1994.

Ms. Smith said she believes that police began investigating her shop after the owner of a nearby business complained about the number of young people going to Moon Star, in the 8000 block of Main St.

The county's request for an injunction says two undercover detectives went to the shop June 24 to see if the shop carried smoking devices. A shop clerk led the detectives to a locked, second-floor room, where different kinds of pipes were displayed on four tables, the filing says.

The shop had a sign saying the pipes could be purchased only by adults and "were for smoking tobacco and legal herbs only," the filing says. The detectives said they did not see any tobacco for sale.

The detectives left the shop after buying a $46 water pipe and a $10 brass pipe, the filing says. On July 6, police returned to the shop, where they reported seizing 113 smoking pipes -- some at least 5 feet long -- according to the filing.

Ms. Smith, 40; her son, Joshua Hawk Smith, 19; and store manager Trista Richardson Turner, 21, of Ellicott City were arrested on the paraphernalia charges. They are scheduled for hearings in Howard County District Court Feb. 17.

Richard William Winelander, a Baltimore attorney for Ms. Smith, said the seized items should not be classified as drug paraphernalia because his client never intended them to be used with narcotics.

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