Lawmakers veer way off path

By Bob Scott • Guest Columnist

North Carolina Legislators have declared war on tube roses.

Tube roses are little roses and pens in glass tubes. Also on the legislator’s list of evil products are cigar splitters. Splitters are plastic tubes that split cigars lengthwise. Both are sold at convenience stores.

Our legislators apparently believe that these products will increase the use of illegal drugs. So the legislature passed “An Act to Provide for the Regulation of Certain Devices that May be Used as Drug Paraphernalia.”

Our legislator’s fear is that drug users will use glass tube roses to smoke crack or methamphetamine and cigar splitters will be used to split cigars so they can be packed with marijuana. In the legislators’ thought process, this is reason enough to require these products to be kept behind the counter and anyone wishing to buy them must sign for them. It’s pandering to the public for votes by bragging how tough on drugs they are. Toughness, not logic, is the legislators’ quest.

The bill defines a glass tube as an object which is hollow, either open or closed at either end, no less than two or more than seven inches in length. Which brings up the question of whether high school and college chemistry classes’ test tubes should be put on the legislators’ controlled paraphernalia list?

Here’s a scenario: Let’s say you rush into a convenience store and you desperately need the key to the restroom. You notice a line at the counter. Everyone is getting impatient because one of the local drug users is struggling to fill out the paperwork to buy a tube rose. You, waiting for the rest room key along with beer buyers, are the big losers. A tube rose buyer is nothing but trouble.

Or what about the potential to create a black-market for tube roses? Immediately the price of tube roses will soar and every child in North Carolina becomes a potential customer for a dealer hooking our children on tube roses — or worse yet — cigar splitters. “Psst. Hey kid. Wanta buy a tube rose? No money. No problem. Take the money from your momma’s pocket book.” Another child becomes a criminal.

With the passage of this legislation, we will need federal and state grants for task forces witt multi-jurisdictional authority to go after tube rose/splitter dealers. We could divert law enforcement officers from duties dealing with domestic violence, child abuse, traffic control, theft, murder and all those things which have a severe impact on society. They would check the records of convenience stores to see who is buying tube roses and cigar splitters.

The bill says that records must be kept for two years. Federal, state and local law enforcement agencies can inspect the records within 48 hours of the sale. The owners of convenience stores are required to train employees on the bill. A retailer or employee who willfully violates the bill is guilty of a class 2 misdemeanor. The bill becomes law on Dec.1, 2009, so there may be a rush to buy tube roses and splitters. The best advice to the public is to get them now, before the bill goes into effect.

It is encouraging to know that the North Carolina Legislature is concerned with such weighty issues. But shouldn’t they be concerned with teacher layoffs, cuts to substance abuse treatment, health and human services funding, taxes, ethics and common sense?

Shouldn’t the legislature spend time working to create treatment and rehabilitation programs for drug users? Or developing a strategy to prevent drug abuse rather than the old, worn out, ineffective “War on Drugs” that costs this nation billions and funds drug cartels and terrorist groups? Sleep well North Carolina. Your legislature is half awake.

The House passed the legislation (HB 722) March 23, and the Senate passed it unanimously in early June.

(Bob Scott is a former newspaper reporter and law enforcement officer. He lives in Franklin.)

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