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Q: I bought an item from a company which will remain unnamed. The item is called O.P.M., a supposed legal Opium alternative. I have also purchased a water pipe to smoke this item. The items were purchased separately from two different companies. Both of them told me that these products are completely legal in the U.S. for use with legal herbs, tobacco, and drug alternatives. That they are legal herbal substances. I checked with them and they verified this fact. Is this true? I do not intend to use the pipe for any illegal drugs or herbs, only tobacco and drug alternatives.

A: Under federal law in the US, water pipes are legal to use for tobacco and other legal smoking materials. They are definitely illegal if used to smoke marijuana or another controlled substance, or if there is evidence that you intend to use it for such a purpose (for example, if you had a clean unused bong sitting next to a bag of marijuana, the bong could still be considered paraphenalia). Various states have different laws though, and in some states a water pipe is illegal to use even for tobacco. You will need to check your local state laws to know for certain if water pipes are legal to own.

In 1994, there was a landmark decision by the US Supreme Court which ruled against a shop that sold various drug paraphernalia including bongs, but also including cocaine freebasing kits and many other scheduled-drug specific paraphernalia. This decision, which can be read online at Cornell's Supreme Court Collection, essentially ruled that items could be considered paraphernalia even without evidence of specific intent to use as drug paraphernalia.

The Federal Supreme Court made it clear in 'Posters N Things' that retailers of paraphernalia operated at the whim of law enforcement if it can be shown that they "sell items that [they] knew were likely to be used with illegal drugs". This implies, however, that if you purchase a bong for use with a legal product and do in fact use it only for smoking legal products, the bong itself is definitely not illegal drug paraphernalia under federal law. Everyone in our culture should be aware, however, that something doesn't have to be illegal before you can have it confiscated by the police and be arrested for it. If you want to stay out of trouble, its best to keep anything that could look like "illegal drugs" well away from where it can be 'accidentally' seen by delivery people, workers, passersby, etc.

As an aside, the O.P.M. product you purchased is essentially an incense product which smells and tastes somewhat like opium. It contains no known drugs and is unlikely to get you high. Take care when smoking it and try to get a full ingredient list.

Asked By : BardoThodol
Answered By : murple /earth
Published Date : 2 / 22 / 2001
Last Edited Date : 2 / 27 / 2001
Question ID : 2353

Categories: [ Paraphernalia ] [ Law ]

Ask Erowid v1.7 - Jul, 2005

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