STEP RIGHT UP, folks! Take a look at the hottest thing on the market! It's an item every hip home should have, a unique "preparation system" to grind your favorite white, crystalline substance into a fine, snowy powder in nothing flat. Fully washable, unconditionally guaranteed and only $14.95 at your neighborhood head shop.
Right next to the pale green plastic device, which a reckless lawbreaker could possibly use for pulverizing cocaine, if such an idea should ever occur, we find a nifty kit to convert the knob on an automobile gear shift (floor model) to a pipe. Who knows what could be smoked in such a pipe, which comes complete with a long plastic tube for the driver's convenient inhalation. It is also only $14.95, and just in time for Christmas.
These items and more, many more, are big business nowadays, filling "head shops" and record stores and boutiques coast to coast with the paraphernalia of marijuana smoking and the snorting of cocaine. From a furtive, unorganized bunch of longhairs who built pipes from aluminum foil and thimbles in the mid-1960s, paraphernalia people have become a computerized, lawyer-stuffed and very profitable industry with estimated retail sales of $350 million per year.
If the drugs themselves are illegal or barely tolerated in most places and forever nameless in the advertising, the equipment that eases their use is not. This means sin and corruption to many people who are trying, for the most part without result, to stamp out the paraphernalia industry. To those in the business, it means cutthroat competition for big-bucks proft.
"Eight years ago people wanted a small wood pine for a dollar that they could throw away if they had to. Now they want handcrafted ivory or really spectacular pipes that cost $200 or so, and they're proud to slow them off to their friends," said Deacon MacCubbin, owner of Stone Age Trading co., a Washington paraphernalia wholesaler.
MacCubbin, 35, who prides himself on the wide variety of quality merchandise in his Earthworks head shop, sells $150,000 a year there in "anything used with what we refer to as recreational drugs." He also makes "far beyond that" wholesaling Apogee brand pipes, or "bongs," elaborate plexiglass confections that retail for $12to $30.
Like any businessman, MacCubbin is reticent on profit and volume figures. But he started with a $100 investment in a bankrupt crafts store in 1974 and now has nine employes, is planning to double his store space and is looking at electronic cash registers.
He is a member of the Paraphernalia Trade Association ("fondly called the PTA," another member said) and sent an employee to a rather staid cocktail party for Washington-Maryland area paraphernalias sellers that was held, of all places, in a public ballroom of the chanderliered and flower-carpeted Springfield Hilton.
As if that were not legitimate enough, the customers have changed too. Where they were once street people or out-of-towers in Washington for antiwear demonstrations, they are now, MacCubblin said, "a broad mainstream of society with no profession or business unrepresented." It is all, he said, laughing, "kind of a Horatio Alger story."
The spectacular growth and rapid sophistication of the paraphernalia business reflects what the National Institue on Drug Abuse said are 16.2 million "current users" of marijuana and 1.6 million current users of cocaine in the United States, defined as persons who have used the drug in the past month. NIDA estimates that 42.7 million persons have tried marijuana at least once and 9.8 million persons have tried cocaine.
It is a sizable market. The Drug Enforcement Administration estimates that 10,000 to 15,000 tons of marijuana and 20 to 25 metric tons of cocaine were imported last year to satisfy it. All illegal drug sales totaled more than $40 billion in 1977, with marijuana probably accounting for $16 billion, the DEA said. Drugs, in other words, are right up there with Exxon and General Motors which each recorded $54 billion in sales in 1977. "getting high is a reality and we just admit to it," said Victoria Horn of High Times, a glossy monthly magazine whose birth in 1974 in New York is widely credited for the takeoff of the paraphernalia business. "We're not corrupting anybody. People were doing it long before but didn't know how to do it safely. We don't advocate it, we just deal with the facts."
With a circulation of 350,000 to 424,000, high times takes in $1.5 million per year, mostly from ads that fill 40 percent of its space, Horn said. A four-color, full-page one-time adcosts $4,200, and the buyers include record companies, jewelers and T-shirt makers. Mostly, howerer, they sell drug paraphernalia.
"High times made the public availableto everybody. Distributors could find manufacturers, retailers could find distributors; all the sources became open and accessible," said AndyKowal, founder and former publisher of the magazine. "Before that the only way to get customers was to camvass in the streets. . . nobody would take the ads: The business was growing from demand rather than from marketing techniques as it is now."
From high times' success sprang stone age, a spinoff quarterly also owned by the Trans High Corp., and a competitor, Hilife, both just now getting started. From all one can order tiny spoons and boxes, slim straws and cigarette holders, large and small pipes of bewildering design, made of carver ivory or scrimshaw, 14-karat gold, silver, wood, glass or plastic.
There are dozens of varieties of rolling paper, wooden bowls to facilitate the separation of seeds andtwigs from leaves ( $25), belt buckles with rolling paper pouches, battery-operated cleaners with rotating wires to break up and filter tightly packed herbs. There are fake pens and coca cola cans to hide it in.
There are mushroom-growing kits, sterling silver and onyx roach (marijuana cigarette stub) clips, incense, how-to-grow-it books, cigarettes rolling machines. There are devices to pelletize any substance, to humidify it (for marijuana) or dehumidify it (for cocaine); to concentrate smoke, to cool it, to deodorize it and to blow it in a friend's face. Nasal decongestants take ona whole new personality when advertised in these magazines and aimed atcocaine-sniffers, and delicate scales suitable for jewelers have found a whole new and very hot market among traders checking their purchases.
quality and schlock
Profits are High. John Carnahan of the Northern Lights shops in St. Paul, Minn., told an interviewer recently his inventory was 75 percent records and 25 percent paraphernalia, but 50 percent of his net profits were from the latter. Robert Stiller, a founder of E-Z Wider rolling paper company, told Forbes magazine last year that a booklet of the papers cost 6 cents. Vending machines are beginning to carry the papers, making such more money on them per sale than they do on cigarettes. Last year the Internal Revenue Service estimated it collected $1.6 million in taxes on imported rolling papers alone.
As in most businesses, there is quality and there is schlock: some products bomb and companies appear and die overnight. Flavored cigatette paper is apparently out now; a "smoke kit" featuring rolling papers and split matches suitable for roach clips was a recent turkey.
"I went to one party for them and they didn't even have a product to show me," scoffed Randy Dyer, owner of High Supply, a seven-year-old paraphernalia distributing company based in Alexandria.
Dyer, 28, started with "about nothing" in a small head shop in 1971; two year ago he installed a $40,000 Wang computer to handle his nventory, accounts receivable, invoicing and sales analysis. He employs 14 persons and his five sales personnel take their 72-page catalogs and photographs around to customers in Washington, Maryland, Maryland and Virginia. The firm is "middle-sized" and one, he said, of perhaps 500 distributors around the country.
They keep in touch with one another and with their 200 plus manufacturers through the two-year-old Paraphernalia
Trade Association and the Paraphernalia & Accessories Digest, still in its first year. The Digest, which Andy Kowral left High Times to publish, could be the usual crashing bore of a trade rag about industry promotions, transfers, mergers and lawsuits (complete with smilling faces over neckties and handshakes) except for the unqiues nature of the business involved.
Because it is paraphernalia and not overshoes, the trade is under constant attack from state and local lawmakers who argue that its very existence ought to be illegal. The PTA was formed largely to fight disabling legislation and is financed by donations and $250 a year from each of its 90-odd members. It works closely with NORML, the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, and is trying to lure away NORML founder keith Stroup to be the PTA's chief attorney and lobbyist.
"Trying to control drug traffic by stopping paraphernalia sales is like trying to keep minors from drinking beer by making it illegal for minors to have a beer glass," said Michael Pritzker, a PTA attorney who coordinates the court battles out of his Chicago office.
At the federal level, there seems to be agreement. Asked about the paraphernalia business, Drug Enforcement Administration spokesman Jum Judge said, "I don't see why we should have any more of an opinion on that industry than we do on the people who makes refrigerators."
At the state level, however, opinion can be strong indeed. "Some of the items sold to encourage the use of illegal drugs are as dangerous as dynamite and ought to be regulated like dynamite," said State Sen. Bud Stumbaugh of Stone Mountain, Ga. "We don't want to come off as narrow-minded, bigoted right-wing nuts. We in no way have tried to limit sales of items that might have some use in addition to their use with illegal drugs," he said.
Stumbaugh authored three Georgia laws attacking the industry, all of whch are on appeal in the courts. One outlaws paraphernalia the "only apparent purpose" of which is use with illicit drugs. The second restricts sale of such objects to persons over 18, and the third bans the sale to minors of literature "judged by reasonable test" to encourage use of illegal drugs. Several states including New York have modeled recent pending legislation on the first two of those laws, which are judged to be the toughest in effect anywhere.
Georgia Paraphernalia Association attorney Reber Boultgot the third law struck down in U.S. District Court in Georgia on First Amendment freedom-of-speech grounds. The same argument has been used in other states, notably Indiana and Illinois, against statutes banning sale of mirrors bearing wedge-shaped grooves and the word "cocaine."
"Writng the word on a mirror doesn't make it [drug use] paraphernalia," said Prizker. "It may be liturgy, ritual, drama or display but it's not paraphernalia."
A Matter of Definition
Similarly, most laws suffer from inability to define just what it is they are trying to prohibit. While every state has contraband laws allowing seizure of items actually used in the commission of crimes, such as the car in which a drug shipment is found, it is much harder to ban an intent to use an item illegally.
"Meerschaum pipes and corncob pipes sell well in head shops. Why is it legal if Dunhill sells it and illegal if it's in a record store?" asked Pritzker.
"I think the only true drug paraphernalia item is a syringe that is interwined with heroin usage. . . but the other things aren't necessarily related at all to what they [the state legislators] are trying to do, which is control what they perceive as a drug problem," he said.
Antique salt cellars with their tiny spoons have found a new-generation market in head shops, as have old brass powdered ink holders and gunpowder puches now holding another kind of powder. Some laws try to be very specific, like the one in Mount Prospect, Ill., that bans "metal, wooden, acrylic, glass, stone or plastic marijuana or hashish pipes, with or without screens." Pritzker notes that it thus bans wooden pipes without screens, and he will challenge it in federal court next week.
The PTA charges that many local authorities use selective enforcement, arresting small paraphernalia shop owners but ignoring the sale of tiny gold-plated spoons and silver cigarette rollers in Tiffany's or Bloomingdale's.
To be consistent would make things ridiculous, said Kowal. "I personally once ripped out the front page of the Bible I found in a hotel room and rolled a joint with it, very nice paper, and lit it with hotel matches, but the fact that the hotel supplied the paper and the matches shouldn't place them in any jeopardy for my illegal act," he said. "You don't need any of the things we sell to smoke spot, and if someone wants to get high they're goint to do it with or without any paraphernalia."
Geogia authorities admit their laws are full of holes, and that they won't stop drug traffic or even put much of a dent in it. "Itis a many-pronged problem and you attack from as many directions as you can," said Stumbaugh. "If I can just get that material behind the painted glass window and restricted to adults only-well, if an adult wants to make a fool of himself buying one of those things, it's his business,"