A D.C. City Council committee recommended yesterday that the District prohibit the sale of drug paraphernalia to minors, but rejected a move to ban all such sales as other Washington area jurisdictions have done.
The proposed measure, which must be approved by the full council, would impose a $250 license fee on businesses that want to sell drug paraphernalia, ban sales by street or sidewalk vendors and would require purchasers to prove their age with identification that includes a photograph.
The measure passed on a voice vote after John Ray (D-At Large), who is running for mayor, saw his amendment to ban all such sales in the District lose on a 3-to-2 roll call vote.
"I see no redeeming value whatsoever in the sale and distribution of paraphernalia," said Ray, who was joined in his opposition by Wilhelmina J. Rolark (D-Ward 8).
Jerry A. Moore Jr. (R-At Large), a Baptist minister who last year proposed a full-scale ban on paraphernalia sales, voted against Ray's amendment.
Although he said he would "like to see the whole business of head shops gotten rid of," Moore said he now felt that a total ban could be ruled unconstitutional. He was joined by David A. Clarke (D-Ward 1), chairman of the committee, and H. R. Crawford (D-Ward 7), who questioned whether a ban would drive such businesses underground.
"You have to deal with reality," Moore said, noting the city had failed in legal attempts to ban pornographic businesses. Moore likened the effort to prohibition against liquor.
"It wouldn't work," he said. "While it was a desirable goal, it wasn't a realistic concept. What we are dealing with here is a realistic concept."
Clarke said court tests around the nation have left the issue of total bans unclear. He said the measure approved yesterday was based partially on a model bill written by the federal Drug Enforcement Agency and on a recent U.S. Supreme Court ruling in an Indiana case that upheld a community's regulation of paraphernalia shops.
Items that would be regulated by the legislation include various pipes for smoking marijuana, "roach" clips, miniature cocaine spoons, and other items that are "designed and marketed" for use with illegal drugs.
Jurisdictions in the Maryland and Virginia suburbs, as well as in most areas of the country that have such laws, have prohibitions "across the board," Ray said. He said the city should pass a full ban because he felt the Supreme Court would uphold it.
Ray also contended that the bill approved would be ineffective in keeping such items away from minors, who, he said, account for a large percentage of such sales. Ray argued that unscrupulous vendors and businesses that could legally obtain the items would still sell them to minors.
The committee approved amendments by Moore to impose criminal penalties of up to 30 days in jail and a $1,000 fine for violations of the law. The bill drafted by Clarke had carried only civil penalties. Another amendment by Moore would increase the proposed license fee from $150 to $250.
The committee also approved an amendment offered by Rolark requiring that that all money raised under the measure be used to finance anti-drug programs.