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Glass pipes and other items that investigators say are "used for the ingestion of controlled substances" were seized earlier this month from Casper area businesses where they were openly on display, according to search warrants filed Tuesday.
The warrants detail searches at businesses in Casper, Mills and Bar Nunn by agents with the Wyoming Division of Criminal Investigation. No arrests in connection with the searches have yet been made even as the businesses "remain under investigation," according to Natrona County District Attorney Mike Blonigen.
Items seized in the searches include bongs, more elaborate water pipes known as "Hookahs," scales, ceramic pipes and substances advertised as "cleansers" that could be used in attempts to pass drug tests, according to the warrants. Investigators note that many of the businesses posted signs advising that the items for sale were not intended for use with illegal drugs.
If charges are filed in connection with the searches, Blonigen said, jurors could have to settle the question of whether the items for sale are intended to be used as drug paraphernalia.
"What's over the line and what isn't?" Blonigen asked.
It is a felony in Wyoming to sell, or possess with the intention of selling, drug paraphernalia to someone younger than 18. It is a misdemeanor if such a sale or intention of selling involves another adult.
The businesses searched on Sept. 8 were: E R Cigar at 3702 Salt Creek Highway; Old World Variety at 1831 E. Second St.; United Pawn Brokers stores at 4101 West Yellowstone Highway and 1301 S. Wisconsin St.; and the Gasamat at 4300 W. Yellowstone Highway.
Scott Schroefel, who runs the United pawn stores in Casper and Mills, said he consulted local law enforcement officials before starting to sell various pipes about four months ago and was under the impression he was adhering to the law. The pipes, he said, are intended for use with the herb Salvia divinorum, which is not listed as a controlled substance and which could be a "viable option" for someone thinking of using illegal substances.
"If I'm doing something illegal, they should have arrested me," Schroefel said Tuesday, the day the warrants were filed in Natrona County Circuit Court.
The "system cleansers" on sale at the stores, Schroefel said, are intended to help people remove from their bodies toxic substances ingested with food and drink, not to help with any drug tests.
The particular items found and seized in the searches varied from business to business.
Mills Police Chief Jerry Endresen said some misunderstanding in Mills about what types of pipes are legal could have come from his office. Preliminary research, he said, suggested that businesses could be permitted to sell new pipes made of glass.
Endresen noted that items seized Sept. 8 included ceramic and other types of pipes, which never would have been cleared. And upon further review, he said, he is under the impression that even glass pipes are illegal.
"As far as I know, you can't sell any of that stuff," Endresen said.