New Zealand’s pipe merchants saw their livelihood threatened on July 1, as a federal ban on pipes and waterbongs came into effect. Use and possession of “cannabis utensils” was already illegal, punishable by a $1000 fine and 3 months imprisonment. The new law prohibits importation and sale of cannabis utensils with similar punishments, including $5000 fines for company directors.
The National Association of Pipe Sellers is opposed to the new law, claiming that there are 300 retailers in New Zealand whose wares would be banned, even though they could also be used for smoking tobacco or other legal herbs.
The change in law was implemented by the previous National government, which was defeated in the November elections. When the law was originally proposed it was opposed by every group which made a submission on it, but it was passed anyways, with the pro-viso that it not come into effect for one year. The current Labour coalition includes the pro-decrim Green Party, yet it allowed the Notice to be put into force when it could have easily been repealed.
Chris Fowlie, owner of The Hemp Store in Auckland and spokesman for the NZ National Organisation for Reform of Marijuana Laws, explained that the Notice is full of loopholes.
“For instance, we can still sell pipes if they are ‘tobacco pipes’ but not if they’re called ‘head pipes.’ We can sell anything as individual parts. We can still sell any wooden and glass pipes. We can’t put gauze in the bowls, but we can still sell it separately. Roach clips are banned if they look like a cannabis ‘leaf seeds or fruit,’ but they’re legal if they don’t.”
Fowlie said that he continues to sell bongs and pipes in his store, except that he is renaming them to comply with the law. He has removed the sign on his display cabinet which said “these pipes are for marijuana smoking only,” and now he describes his wares as “vases.”
“Actions like this show they are more interested in punishing marijuana smokers than in protecting their health,” claimed Fowlie. “Pipes and bongs protect the health of smokers.”
Police have said that they will not go out of their way to enforce the law, but would “investigate complaints.”
In Canada, bongs are prohibited under section 462.2 of the criminal code. The law is considered constitutionally weak and could likely be defeated in the Supreme Court. Yet in many raids, police simply seize a store’s entire inventory of pipes and bongs, but do not press charges.
These bong-banning laws allow police and politicians to use the threat of financial terrorism to intimidate and control business owners who become too outspoken or politically active.
? National Association of Pipesellers: Stephen Tozer, email: [email protected]