New Richmond chief gives new smoke shop a verbal warningA local business may be forced to close if New Richmond Police Chief Mark Samelstad decides to cite the owner for selling drug paraphernalia.
By: By Jeff Holmquist, New Richmond News
A local business may be forced to close if New Richmond Police Chief Mark Samelstad decides to cite the owner for selling drug paraphernalia.
The Box Smoke Shop opened June 14 along North Knowles Avenue, according to owner Chad Constantineau. The business sells tobacco products and accessories.
Constantineau appeared at Monday’s New Richmond City Council meeting to express his concern about a visit he received from Samelstad on June 27. While talking with Constantineau, Samelstad identified several products in display cases that he felt were drug paraphernalia, including about 50 glass pipes often used for smoking drugs.
“In my opinion, drug paraphernalia is being sold at the Box Smoke Shop,” Samelstad told the council.
Samelstad said he set a July 31 deadline for Constantineau to stop selling the items.
Constantineau claimed that the pipes are not intended for drug use, and signs in his business warn customers against such use.
“That’s not what this business is about,” Constantineau said. “I think it is a very creative tobacco shop, nothing else.”
Constantineau said glass pipes are used by younger tobacco smokers, rather than the traditional wooden pipes associated with older smokers. If he was forced to stop selling the glass pipes, Constantineau suggested he might have to close his business.
City Attorney Kristina Williamson told the council that it’s up to the Police Department to enforce city ordinances related the sale of drug paraphernalia. She said it’s not appropriate for the council to entertain complaints about expected citations and act on such a request.
“This is not an issue for the council at this time,” she said.
A more appropriate course of action would be for the business owner, if cited, to take the issue to court to settle the question about whether the products are drug paraphernalia or not.
But Constantineau’s attorney, Eric Crandall, said the council could direct police officials to make citations related to the sale of pipes a lower priority, thus allowing the business to operate. He suggested that state law and municipal ordinances exempt tobacco shops from drug paraphernalia prosecution and those exemptions should apply to his client.
In the end, the council took no action on the matter.
“This doesn’t seem like the right venue for this argument,” council member Kirk Van Blaircom told Constantineau. “There’s an opportunity for you to have an argument, but I don’t know if it’s here.”
Council member Ron Volkert agreed.
“The police chief should be able to do his job,” he said. “This is not a decision for the council to make.”
For the complete story, see this week's New Richmond News.