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If Drug Paraphernalia is Illegal, how do Head Shops Legally Operate?

As a criminal defense attorney in a bustling college town, I am often asked how State College’s head shops and mom and pop convenience stores can get away with selling bongs, bowls, vaporizers, empty plastic dime bags and the like. This is a common question among people who find themselves charged with the ungraded misdemeanor known as “possession of drug paraphernalia,” along with a charge of possession of a small amount of marijuana. These clients usually say something like, “I knew it was illegal to have weed, but I didn’t think it was a separate crime to have a bowl, when you can buy one at Jamaica Junction.“

The simple explanation is that head shops are not actually selling drug paraphernalia. They are selling water pipes, glass tobacco novelty pipes and little, plastic jewelry bags. That is why all head shops have strict rules banning references to illegal drugs by employees and customers. Head shops may legally sell these items during the era of Marijuana Prohibition for the same reason that it was perfectly legal to buy and sell wine glasses and beer mugs during America’s failed experiment with Alcohol Prohibition. You could use wine glasses for grape juice, you could use beer mugs for root beer floats, and you can use a smoking device for tobacco.

Items sold in head shops only become drug paraphernalia after people leave the store and employ them in an illegal manner. Pursuant to 35 Pa.C.S.A. § 780-113(a)(32) of the Pennsylvania Drug Device and Cosmetic Act, drug paraphernalia is defined as a device, the purpose of which is to plant, propagate, cultivate, grow, harvest, manufacture, compound, produce, process, prepare, test, analyze, pack, re-pack, store, contain, conceal, inject, ingest, inhale or otherwise introduce into the human body a controlled substance. Thus, the items really do not become “drug paraphernalia,” unless and until there is some tangible proof that one planned to use said item in a manner, which violates the Drug Device and Cosmetic Act. That tangible proof is usually the presence of illegal drugs with the paraphernalia, or THC laced resin on smoking devices.

When it comes to head shops, I am reminded of a line in the famous Bertolt Brecht and Kurt Weil song “Die Moritat von Mäckie Messer,” from “The Three Penny Opera.” A loosely translated version of the song is known in English as “Mack the Knife,” which Gen-Xers will remember as the basis for the theme song of a 1980s McDonald’s character known as “Mac Tonight.” The line goes “Denn ein Haifisch ist kein Haifisch, wenn man’s nicht beweisen kann,” or “Because a shark is not a shark when you can’t prove it.”

As a criminal defense attorney in a bustling college town, I am often asked how State College's head shops and mom and pop … Drug Paraphernalia

Can you sell bongs online?

People also ask, is it legal to sell bongs?

glass bong is drug paraphernalia under federal law, which makes it illegal. By calling a glass bong a water pipe and stating that it’s only for tobacco use, shops are able to sell these products without running afoul of the law.

Additionally, can you sell bongs on Shopify? In recent years, more online head shop merchants selling bongs and water pipes have started setting up their e-commerce site with Shopify, but they often have challenges. With our credit card processing solutions, you‘ll be able to accept payments for bongs and water pipes on your Shopify site in no time.

In this way, can I sell bongs on Amazon?

Although other online shopping sites such as eBay do not allow legal highs or drugs equipment to be sold on its site, Amazon is selling salvia, nitrous oxide and poppers, along with drug pipes, bongs and scales.

Can you sell bongs on Facebook?

You see, Geng sells bongs and other glassware items at Smoke Cartel, the online headshop he co-founded almost three years ago. Platforms like Facebook and AdWords will not allow advertisements that promote the use of recreational drugs, tobacco, or related paraphernalia.

As long as you are at least 18 years old, ordering from an online headshop is in no way illegal. Online headshops sell bongs, dab rigs, glass pipes, and vapes that are intended for tobacco, medical use, aromatherapy blends, and legal concentrates.