Cocaine paraphernalia is any legitimate equipment, product, or material that is modified for making, using, or concealing cocaine.
Cocaine paraphernalia generally falls into two categories:
- User-specific products
- Dealer-specific products
User-specific cocaine paraphernalia is marketed to cocaine users to assist them in taking or concealing cocaine. These products include mirrors, razor blades, straws, rolled paper money, syringes, needles, spoons, along with belts, bandanas, or surgical tubing used to constrict the veins for cocaine injection.
Dealer-specific cocaine paraphernalia is items used by drug traffickers for preparing cocaine for distribution at the street level. Items such as scales, vials, and baggies fall into this category.
Smoking cocaine or 'crack' involves using a glass cocaine pipe or other cocaine smoking apparatus to inhale cocaine smoke into the lungs where absorption into the bloodstream is just as rapid as by injection. Cocaine can be smoked using a glass tube as a pipe and a piece of copper dish scouring pad as a filter. Soda cans with cigarette ashes being utilized as a filter can also be used. Some addicts create cocaine pipes made of aluminum foil rolled into tubes. Physical evidence of smoking cocaine includes broken or empty lighters, any of the cocaine paraphernalia listed above, burns on furniture, burns or swelling on fingertips and lips of the user, rags or cloth with soot marks, baking soda, small vials, small pieces of copper scouring pads, test tubes, glassware, and propane torches.
Under the Federal Drug Paraphernalia Statute, which is part of the Controlled Substances Act, it is illegal to possess, sell, transport, import, or export drug paraphernalia as defined by the statute. The law gives specific guidance on determining what constitutes drug paraphernalia. Many states have also enacted their own laws prohibiting drug paraphernalia.
With the rise of the drug culture in the United States during the 1960s and 1970s, the country began to see the appearance of "head shops." Head shops are stores that sell a wide range of drug and cocaine paraphernalia. While some of the paraphernalia was crude and home-made, much was being commercially manufactured to cater to a fast-growing market. Enterprising individuals even sold items openly in the street until anti-paraphernalia laws in the 1980s eventually ended such blatant sales. Today, law enforcement faces another challenge. With the advent of the internet, criminals have greatly expanded their illicit sales to a worldwide market for drug and cocaine paraphernalia. For example, in a recent law enforcement effort, Operation Pipedreams, the 18 companies targeted accounted for more than a quarter of a billion dollars in retail drug and cocaine paraphernalia sales annually. Typically, such illicit businesses operate retail stores as well as web sites posing as retailers of legitimate tobacco accessories. In reality, the products are intended for the illegal drug trade.
Drug and cocaine paraphernalia is often marketed specifically to youths with
colorful logos, celebrity pictures, and designs like smiley faces on
the products. The items are meant to look harmless and distract from
the dangers of taking
controlled substances. Other paraphernalia like magic markers can conceal
pipes. Often times, hand-painted blown glass items look more like pretty
than pipes or stash containers. Parents need to be aware that these
kinds of cocaine
paraphernalia often conceal cocaine use.