Earlier this year, Saugerties was the first town to ban synthetic drugs at convenience stores, and it still has the toughest law on the books. Last week the town took things a step further and banned the sale of drug paraphernalia. The ban will mainly affect local shops that sell glass and water pipes. The pipes are sold for tobacco use but are mainly used by customers to smoke marijuana. The penalty is a misdemeanor, carrying a $100 to $500 fine.
The town’s law won’t apply to shops in the village. But they’re not safe either: last week the village introduced an identical law. The village will hold a public hearing Monday, June 18 at 6:30 p.m. at Saugerties Village Hall. While some business owners have already said they’ll forego selling these items, at least one has vowed to fight the ban.
Supervisor Kelly Myers said she was inspired to push for the law after her young daughter saw a glass pipe in the checkout line and, appreciating its colorful artistry, asked if she could have one.
While her daughter was unaware of the use to which these pipes are usually put, “it was a shiny object, and she was attracted to it,” Myers said.
The concern over the corruption of youth carries over into the law, which asserts that such pipes are being sold to minors despite a ban on sale to anyone under 18.
“We want to keep this stuff out of the hands of those under the age of 18,” said Saugerties Police Chief Joseph Sinagra. “Nobody smokes tobacco in those colorful glass pipes that can be purchased in the town and village smoke shops and convenience stores.”
Members of both boards have expressed concerns the law won’t be enforceable. Village trustee Patrick Landewe said the main issue was the law’s “vagueness” and the possibility that it could be construed as outlawing regular tobacco use by honest pipe smokers.
Myers said Holley Carnright, Ulster County’s district attorney and a Saugerties native, went over the law and said it was indeed enforceable. Still, unlike with the synthetic drug ban, they’re expecting a challenge.
“There is no doubt this law is going to be challenged in court,” said Sinagra.
The law defines the forbidden items as “glass pipes, metal pipes, water pipes, and small metal screens used for smoking marijuana, crack cocaine, synthetic marijuana, hashish, and other illegal and synthetic drugs.”
The preamble to the law also refers to the Town Board’s finding that “the continued sale of these devices poses a significant risk to those who use them by producing a dangerous, drug-induced state and altered health, altered productivity and decreased ability to be contributing members of society.” The preamble also cites increased ambulance calls to treat the side effects of illegal drugs.
The term “paraphernalia” includes not only the items used to smoke drugs, as defined in the law, but also “equipment and products designed for planting, propagating, cultivating, growing, harvesting, manufacturing, compounding, concealing, ingesting, inhaling, injecting or otherwise introducing into the human body a controlled substance in violation of laws governing controlled substances.”
The law specifies that “the above paraphernalia items need not have drug residue on them for them to be considered illegal.”
The law states that possession of such paraphernalia is illegal, as is the sale of these materials. However, the law specifically allows the possession and sale of pipes ordinarily used to smoke tobacco.
David Gordon and Robert Ford contributed to this article