Sen. Charles McC. Mathias (R.-Md.) picked up the nose cone of a "power hitter" -- a device designed to enhance marijuana smoking -- and held it to his face.
"It makes my blood boil," said Mathias.
He was describing his feelings about such drug accessories rather than any physiological response to the device, which in any case was not loaded with marijuana.
Arrayed on a table in the Senator's Capitol Hill office was an assortment of equipment ranging from soda cans and lip balm tubes hollowed out to conceal drugs to the "power hitter," which resembles a Star Wars-inspired ray gun.
The display was meant to illustrate the products of the $3 million-a-year drug paraphernalia industry. Mathias and some Maryland county officials say particular items, especially ingenious, toy-like gadgets, are intended to appeal to children as young as 6 and are luring them into the drug culture.
"These are items picked up from children or bought in stores that are readily available to children," Mathias said. "They're designed to catch a juvenile's attention. It's a growing problem. I've had reports from many parts of Maryland."
Neither Mathias nor Anne Arundel County officials who participated in the demonstration and who have spearheaded a campaign against drug paraphernalia, could say how many children were involved.
Mathias announced plans to hold hearings before the Senate Judiciary Committee's criminal justice subcommittee to gauge the extent of the problem and "find ways to discourage (paraphernalia trade) in interstate commerce."
The senator, the ranking minority member of the subcommittee, said, "what we've seen surfacing in Maryland is symptomatic of a national problem."