“Metallic and glass devices that are commonly used in one of the biggest problems that Iowa has right now, which is smoking methamphetamines, so we’re trying to define these devices,” says Senator Dan Dawson, a Republican from Council Bluffs who is also a special agent for the Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation.
It is illegal to sell “drug paraphernalia” in Iowa, but Dawson says some Iowa businesses claim these devices are for smoking tobacco or burning incense. The bill would require businesses to have a license to sell cigarettes and other tobacco products, plus another license with a yearly thousand-dollar fee to sell these glass and metal pipes. In addition, a new state excise tax would be imposed on every item sold — and those fees would go toward supporting the state’s drug courts.
“On a personal level, I think it’s unconscionable for a business owner to sell these devices full well knowing the destruction that these things eventually create in a people’s lives and then ask taxpayers to pay for it on the back end through the court system, through a variety of other issues,” Dawson says.
“U.S. Constitutional case law says I can’t ban the device so what I’m going to try to do is at least make that business owner deploy a conscious business decision that if I’m going to sell these, this is what the cost’s going to be and at least give some relief to the taxpayer on the back end.”
Dawson has gotten testimony from Iowa narcotics agents who say some of these pipes are being sold for as much as $3000.
“These things have proliferated now throughout the state of Iowa,” Dawson says. “We have gas stations selling these devices.”
The bill would require retailers to keep these devices out of reach of minors, so they’d have to go behind the counter alongside cigarettes. Dawson says meth is the most common illegal drug in the state now and meth power or rocks is often heated to generate fumes that are inhaled.
“You can’t apply a direct flame to them, otherwise you burn the product,” Dawson says.
Glass and metal pipes are commonly used for a key reason, according to Dawson.
“How people would smoke methamphetamines used to be back in the day you’d put it on aluminum foil and you’d heat the bottom and they’d use like a pen to smoke it which would create a residue on there, so that would be drug paraphernalia,” Dawson says. “But what people are doing now is they are buying these glass pipes because if they encounter law enforcement they can throw it on the ground and smash it right away and destroy the evidence, which is why it’s becoming more of a preferred use here for people using those illicit drugs.”
The bill has cleared the Senate Commerce Committee. It’s scheduled for review this week in the Senate Ways and Means Committee. There are a variety of lobbying groups registered on the legislature’s website as monitoring the bill, but no individual or group has registered in opposition.