Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar, but not to D.C. Council member Yvette Alexander, who wants to ban the single-sale of small cigar products commonly known as “blunts.”

“It’s no secret that these products are used for the sole purpose of smoking marijuana,” said Miss Alexander, Ward 7 Democrat, who proposed the legislation. “If we are serious about fighting drugs in our communities, we must sponsor this measure.”

The ban would amend the D.C. Drug Paraphernalia Act of 1982, which prohibits the sale of objects that are modified to make or use illegal drugs.

The proposal is similar to laws in Maryland and Philadelphia, which make it illegal for gas stations and retail stores to sell an individual cigar or cigar leaf to customers. The ban would not affect the sale of individual cigar products at tobacco stores or cigar bars.

Miss Alexander said the law is primarily aimed at discouraging drug use among youths.

“These blunts are purchased solely for an illegal purpose. We want to skim that trend,” she said. “I think it will have a major impact on the usage of marijuana, as now that our neighbors in Maryland have similar laws, it will be harder for anyone to come across these blunts in the future.”

Advocates of marijuana legalization said the law would do nothing to diminish drug use in the city.

“A law like this won’t have any [diminishing] effect on any age group,” said Allen St. Pierre, director of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws. Mr. Pierre said that even with the application or more stringent drug laws throughout the country, usage of marijuana has either stagnated or gone up since 1980.

“As well intended as the council members may be, this law is just not likely to inhibit the use of marijuana amongst youngsters or anyone else,” he said.

Miss Alexander said she expects some opposition from the local business community. However she said that since the blunts are used solely for an illegal purpose, those opposed to the measure wouldn’t have much of an argument.

“Certainly from a business standpoint I can understand why there would be some opposition, however from a moral standpoint, I think [businesses] would have a hard time arguing their case,” she said.

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