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Drug paraphernalia is a term used, often with a slightly negative connotation due to its use in criminal law field e.g. "possession of drug paraphernalia", to denote any equipment, product, or material that is modified for making, using, or concealing drugs, typically for recreational purposes. Drugs such as cocaine, heroin, marijuana, and methamphetamine are related to a wide range of paraphernalia. Paraphernalia generally falls into two categories including user-specific products and dealer-specific products.
User-specific products include glass hashish pipes, crack cocaine pipes, smoking masks, hashish bongs, cocaine freebase kits, syringes, roach clips for holding the burning end of a marijuana "joint". Some stores sell items for growing hydroponic marijuana, such as guidebooks, fertilizer, and fluorescent grow-lights. The term paraphernalia also refers to items such as hollowed-out cosmetic cases or fake pagers when used to conceal illegal drugs, or products purported to cleanse an individuals system of drug residues to increase the individual's chance of passing a urine analysis for drug use.
Dealer-specific products are used by the drug sellers or traffickers for preparing drugs for distribution. Items such as digital scales, vials, and small zipper storage bags that can be used to sell crack, heroin, or marijuana fall into this category.
With the rise of the drug culture in the United States in the 1960s and 1970s, the country began to see the appearance of head shops, which were stores that sold a wide range of drug paraphernalia. While some of the paraphernalia was crude and home-made, much was being commercially manufactured to cater to a fast-growing market which persists today.
In the USA, enterprising individuals would sell items openly in the street, until anti-paraphernalia laws in the 1980s eventually ended the practice. Today, law enforcement faces another challenge. With the advent of the Internet, drug paraphernalia sellers have greatly expanded their sales to a worldwide market. For example, in a recent law enforcement effort, Operation Pipe Dreams, the 18 companies targeted accounted for more than a quarter of a billion dollars in retail drug paraphernalia sales annually.
According to the Federal Drug Paraphernalia Statute, 21 USC 863, which is part of the Controlled Substances Act, in the USA it is illegal to sell, transport through the mail, transport across state lines, import, or export drug paraphernalia as defined. Possession is usually illegal under State law. The law gives specific guidance on determining what constitutes drug paraphernalia. Many states have also enacted their own laws prohibiting drug paraphernalia. In the 1982 case Hoffman Estates v. The Flipside, Hoffman Estates, Inc., the U.S. Supreme Court found a municipal ordinance requiring licensing for paraphernalia sales to have sufficiently distinguished marketing for illegal use to be constitutional. Government crackdowns have resulted in the arrest of sellers of recreational drug paraphernalia, such as actor Tommy Chong, who spent time in prison in 2003 for having his name used on bongs for sale via the internet.
The American drug paraphernalia laws can also apply to many items that have more legitimate uses than for illegal drugs. Small mirrors and other glass products (such as Pyrex test tubes and "glass crack pipes"), lighters, rolled up currency, razor blades, aluminum/tin foil, credit cards, and spoons have all been used to prosecute people under paraphernalia laws, whether or not they contain residue of illegal drugs. While United States federal statute defines paraphernalia with the concept of primary use, in practice this can be interpreted to be what the individual was currently primarily using the item for, allowing for common items to be treated as paraphernalia only in cases where more clear evidence allows such determination of primary use.
Head shops are very much alive and well in the USA, however. Generally, though, they have signs near presumable paraphernalia saying "For tobacco use only" or "Not for use with illicit drugs." Many also ban customers for referencing use of illegal drugs when buying items. Similar policies are used in online head shops, where customers are often made to verify detailed disclaimers of their non-use of illegal substances before buying items.