With a limp, aged stalk of celery and an apple unfit for any teacher's desk, one of the few opponents of Senate Bill 63 stepped to the podium in a crowded committee room here last week and gamely tried to make a stand against the measure.
But it would not have helped the opponent, Jordan Fox, if he had come in with a tank and an M-16 rifle to attack what has become The Cause of the 1980 General Assembly.
"This bill," said one proponent last week, "lets everybody down here look like they're for motherhood."
The bill of which he spoke would outlaw the sale of drug paraphernalia -- the marijuana pipes fashioned to look like Frisbees, the Coca-Cola stash cans, the Chapstick cocaine vials, the "baby toker" tee shirts and all of their ilk.
But here was Jordan Fox, student government president at the University of Maryland's College Park campus, telling legislators that banning manufactured marijuana pipes would set off "a whole counterculture of creative bong-making."
"This," said Fox whipping out his sickly stalk of celery and showing how it could be dipped into powder and brought to the nose, "could be used for sniffing cocaine.
"What's more, you could eat the evidence," he added, taking a bite as his audience groaned and guffawed.
Then Fox proceeded to demonstrate how, with a few holes cut here and there, an apple could be turned into a marijuana pipe.
"Making something illegal makes it more attractive, enticing," he told the senators. "This cosmetic approach will have little effect on youth. It will not work."
But Fox and his produce didn't stand a chance.
The bill's chief sponsor, Sen. Margaret C. Schweinhaut (D-Montgomery), condemned as an "evil practice" a business she said was aimed at making drugs attractive to minors. And Anne Arundel County official Robert Kramer, his voice rising like an evangelist's, harangued against books such as "McGrassy's Reader, which comes with a bag of 'practice grass' which is alfalfa, a take-off on McGuffy's Reader, a primer for children, telling them what to wear to their first dope party, how to light a joint, use a bong and such other important things that our children need to know."
Three days after the hearing at which Fox and Kramer spoke, the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee, in one of its first acts of the session, unanimously approved the bill. Patterned after a model federal statute, it would prohibit the sale or manufacture of drug paraphernalia and set up fines, prison terms and forfeiture of the products as penalties for violation of the law.
So popular is the measure that legislators are tripping all over themselves to support it. Five bills -- two in the Senate and three in the House -- already have been filed. One senator was so alarmed that his name was not among the 40 Senate sponsors -- there are only 47 senators -- that he began whining to Schweinhaut: "Why didn't you call me about this? Everybody's been jumping on me (asking) 'Why aren't you on it?'"
Schweinhaut agreed to add his name.
Often such ardent legislative crusades are halted abruptly by Del. Joseph E. Owens (D-Montgomery), the conservative no-nonsense chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, a man who sometimes calls these measures "60 Minutes bills," noting that issues taken up by the Sunday-night CBS news program often crop up as legislation the next week.
But this time, despite the measure's obvious mass appeal, Owens appears to have joined its proponents.
"I think we can get a bill out, if it's constitutionally sound," Owens said last week. "But it may have to be aimed at (prohibiting sales of paraphernalia to) juveniles, rather than at the public at large."
Prince George's County already has passed an ordinance banning such sales, but a federal judge has prohibited its enforcement pending a full hearing on the issue. Legislators expect a similar challenge from the paraphernalia industry on any bill they pass.
In a year when senators and delegates from different regions with opposing concerns are being pulled apart by issues such as Metro funds, the Baltimore stadium renovation, police aid and other parochial concerns, the anti-bong bill may be one of the few issues on which they can agree.
Even here, however, one of the Senate's long-suffering liberals, Julian L. Lapides (D-Baltimore), is in a quandary.
"I do think these things encourage the use of drugs, but will banning it make it more attractive?" he mused out loud. "Of course, it is a desperate problem . . . you have to do something. But something makes me hang back . . . something in the back of my mind.
"It's a kind of easy thing to be for. Everyone wants to stop the use of drugs. But is it constitutional?" Lapides asked.
"What, I wonder, would Justice William O. Douglas have done?" Lapides asked, saying he had just read of the justice's death. "I don't think he would have sponsored it, but I don't know whether he would have voted for it or not."