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Small glass tubes such as this one are easy to obtain at many convenience stores. Sold as novelties, the devices cost about $2 and can also be used to smoke crack cocaine.

Many convenience stores sell more than cold drinks, candy and fuel.

Some of the most popular merchandise on store shelves are innocent-looking novelty items that double as drug paraphernalia.

Mary Rieser, executive director for Narconon of Georgia — a support group for family members of drug abusers — said she learned how easy it is to buy drug equipment while preparing for a television appearance.

“On the way to the station, I decided that it would be helpful to the viewers if I could show some actual drug paraphernalia. Simple items like soda cans, spoons, light bulbs and straws found in odd places around the home could signal drug abuse. Other paraphernalia items that I wanted to show, like crack pipes, blunts and scales I thought would be harder to get. My companion suggested that we could get everything we needed, including the harder to get items at a convenience store,” Rieser said in a written statement.

She said she doesn’t understand why police officers cannot stop stores from selling devices that can used for drug abuse.

Gainesville Police Department Investigator Tim Green said the answer is simple: Selling such items is not illegal.

“These things can be sold legally because they either have some legitimate purpose or they are sold as novelty or gift items,” he said. “The stores are not violating any laws by putting this stuff out.”

Green said items such as tiny glass tubes containing artificial roses can easily be modified into pipes for smoking crack cocaine.

Other, seemingly innocuous, items have become so popular with drug users and shoplifters, store owners keep them right next to the cash register or behind the counter, he noted.

“When we had less restrictive laws about pseudoephedrine, stores moved it behind the counter because it was being stolen so often. Anything that can be used for drug use or manufacturing is frequently stolen, so it’s moved behind the counter. Locally, I’ve seen Chore Boy (a type of abrasive scrubbing pad often used in crack pipes) behind the counter,” he said.

Some stores keep a variety of multi-colored, decorative glass pipes, small electronic scales and metal scrubbing pads in plain site. These items could arguably be used for legitimate purposes, but often they are not.

“They (store owners) don’t keep items in stores that don’t sell. When you see the stuff, that’s means people are buying it,” he said.

Green said parents who find these items among their kids’ possessions should be concerned. “It’s definitely something parents should ask their children about. It could be harmless enough, but it could also mean the child is using drugs,” he said.

Reporter Delania Trigg may be

contacted at

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