Tilting at Pipes
by Brian C. Bennett

Apparently not wanting to fade into the background noise of impending war, the U.S. drug czar got on television Monday to declare a big "victory" in America's longest war. It seems that John Walters and his boys were slapping high fives over the arrests of some 55 purveyors of smoking devices, and 11 web sites dedicated to the promotion and sales of such devices.

I am perplexed. Given the fact that our $20 billion drug war machine interdicts only 10 percent or so of all illegal substances heading for U.S. consumers, one has to wonder what will be accomplished by these activities. Just as all the huge drug busts and arrests of "major drug kingpins" accomplish absolutely nothing to stop the drug market, busting a handful of people selling glass wares will only serve to provide a system of upward mobility for those awaiting the chance to make more money.

One thing has been overlooked in all the hoopla surrounding this truly astounding accomplishment: our government knows that we love MacGyver. They understand this well enough to know that telling us to stock up on duct tape and plastic sheeting to protect ourselves from chemical or biological attacks was bound to work. Among other things, freedom establishes a climate of creativity. Shutting down the fancy glassworks merely creates a necessity to improvise -- that is, to "MacGyver" smoking devices. The fact of the matter is that you can make a "pot pipe" out of just about anything. In the interest of the public health, someone needs to explain the do's and don'ts of homemade smokewares.

A lot of people know that any old aluminum can or piece of aluminum foil can be used to quickly and easily fashion a disposable smoking device, but what they may not know is that smoking from aluminum may be a really bad idea. There is supposedly a link between aluminum and Alzheimer's disease, which causes some 22,000 deaths per year. Marijuana has never directly killed anyone, but you really don't want to risk Alzheimer's to get high. Perhaps our government is sending a message: they don't want us to use the completely inert and harmless glass pipes for smoking weed -- they'd rather we actually *do* screw up our brains by smoking aluminum.

Much safer (and healthier) is to make a pipe from a piece of fruit -- apples are excellent for this purpose. This is not hard to figure out, and in addition to giving the smoke a nice fruity taste, the "evidence" can be eaten. An added benefit is that any litter produced (the core) is good for the environment.

Of course, there's always a hardware store. Believe it or not, some of the more common metal pipes are made from lamp parts. I suggest you get to your local hardware store and buy whatever you need for your house before the government raiders arrive and seize the place for selling "drug paraphernalia."

Making pipes or developing other smoking methods is not difficult, but even those who are clueless can quickly find the information they want on the Internet. Shutting down pipe vendors will be an even less effective tactic in the drug war than arresting dealers and seizing drugs has been. It's time to direct our energies toward more useful pursuits than trying to stop people from making themselves silly.

The most important question about the issue however, still remains largely unasked: do we even have the right to punish those who do things to themselves? There are people in this world who are genuinely trying to kill us. We can't patrol our borders effectively enough to catch more than 10 percent of the drugs headed to our markets. We have bigger problems than people selling pipes to people who don't die from what they are doing and are doing it only to themselves. Congratulations boys, I sure feel safer knowing that all that dangerous glass will never be used to hurt me. Since drugs are supposedly linked to terrorism, this "huge bust" no doubt must be enough to drop our terrorism alert status by a notch.

Written February 26, 2003

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