Smoke shop cited by New Richmond policeWhen Chad Constantineau opened The Box Smoke Shop, he didn’t intend to do anything illegal. So when the police chief questioned some of his products, he did his best to comply.
By: Jackie Grumish, New Richmond News
When Chad Constantineau opened The Box Smoke Shop, he didn’t intend to do anything illegal. So when the police chief questioned some of his products, he said he did his best to comply.
For the meantime, The Box Smoke Shop will not carry glass pipes, which Police Chief Mark Samelstad says are used to smoke illegal substances and are therefore considered to be drug paraphernalia.
“I removed all the glass pipes as he asked me to,” Constantineau said.
Constantineau, on the other hand, said all pipes in his store — whether they’re made of glass, wood, fossils or corn cob — are designed for smoking tobacco.
“I have signs all over the store and every pipe is labeled for its intended use,” he said.
Just to be safe, after removing the glass pipes, Constantineau asked Samelstad to take a look around the store to make sure nothing else would be considered drug paraphernalia.
“I invited him into the store to walk through,” Constantineau said. “I wanted to make sure all is kosher in his eyes.”
Instead of the friendly walk through Constantineau was expecting, Samelstad issued him 10 citations.
“He came in, walked right to the case with the pipes and issued citations for five wooden, hand-carved pipes,” Constantineau said. “Wooden pipes. Now I can’t have wood. That’s nothing we had talked about.”
Constantineau said the chief identified the pipes as “one-hitters” but passed up other pipes with bowls smaller than the pipes seized.
Samelstad apparently identified five wood boxes in another case as drug paraphernalia, Constantineau said.
“They were empty, wooden boxes used to store tobacco,” he said. “Be careful if you have an empty wooden box in your house, you could get a citation.”
The boxes are tobacco tasters, Constantineau said. They have space to hold tobacco and a cigarette pipe.
Constantineau said he’s since hired an attorney, Andrew Nelson of Hudson, as he feels his business is being targeted because of his past.
As a teen, Constantineau said he got into trouble; however, he doesn’t feel that should be held against him more than 15 years later.
“We fall in life so we can pick ourselves up,” he said.
He said that’s exactly what he did.
“I went to school. I got an education,” he said. “What am I doing wrong here?”
Constantineau said he doesn’t believe Samelstad is looking out for the common good of the people.
“He’s holding a grudge against me from when I was 18,” he said. “I’ve come a long way since then. I demand and deserve some respect from him.”
Constantineau said he doesn’t expect the problem to go away any time soon. His business plans to add adult toys to the store’s inventory and Samelstad has already told him he’ll be cited for those as well.
“The mayor and city attorney specifically told me I could sell them as long as it didn’t exceed 49 percent of the business,” Constantineau said. “So that’s what I’m going to do. If (Samelstad) chooses to cite me, the mayor will be my No. 1 witness.”
On Monday, Aug. 20, Samelstad said he could not comment on an ongoing court case; however, he did say that Constantineau was previously warned about selling drug paraphernalia.
At the July 9 City Council meeting, Samelstad was quoted saying, “In my opinion, drug paraphernalia is being sold at the Box Smoke Shop.”
At that same meeting the city’s attorney, Kristina Williamson, said that it’s up to the police department to enforce city ordinances related the sale of drug paraphernalia.”
On Monday, Williamson said the only way to determine whether the products seized from Constantineau’s store are in fact drug paraphernalia is to get a ruling from the court system.
Constantineau said one of his biggest frustrations is that Samelstad refuses to define drug paraphernalia.
“He cannot explain his actions,” Constantineau said.
After reviewing the city ordinance, Constantineau said he and his attorney came to the same conclusion — The Box Smoke Shop should be allowed to sell the pipes.
For example, Constantineau said the ordinance says several things should be considered when determining whether a particular pipe should be classified as drug paraphernalia:
• Statements by an owner or by anyone in control of the object concerning its use.
“My signs are up and every pipe is labeled for its intended use,” he said.
• Oral or written instructions provided with the object concerning its use.
“That’s posted all over the store,” he said.
• Local advertising concerning its use.
“I advertise in the paper and on my website. Nowhere in there does it mention illegal drugs,” he said.
• Whether the owner, or anyone in control of the object, is a legitimate supplier of like or related items to the community, such as a licensed distributor or dealer of tobacco products
“On the city, state and federal level, I’m licensed,” he said.
• Expert testimony concerning its use.
“I’ll get my suppliers on the phone and they’ll tell you exactly what these products are and what they’re intended to be used for,” he said. “These are all exemptions we fall under, clearly.”
All 10 of Constantineau’s citations, labeled “possession of drug paraphernalia, with intent to deliver,” were identical, he said. The fines associated with them total $1,900.