Hudson Police confiscated 52 pieces of merchandise and issued $12,480 worth of drug paraphernalia citations to the manager of The Hideaway on Monday afternoon. Shop owner Wael Sakallah has 52 citations coming his way as well, according to Hudson Police Chief Marty Jensen.
"They were selling drug paraphernalia like Left of Center was," Jensen said.
Local police conducted a similar operation at Left of Center, the downtown smoke shop, in May 2012. Municipal court proceedings began over two days last month on that case and are set to continue on Thursday.
Jensen said the items confiscated were similar to the ones taken from Left of Center last May, including glass pipes and one-hitters. Jensen also said police have visited the shop numerous times since it opened in October, but this incident was the first time contraband was on display.
Since the incident at Left of Center last May, two new smoke shops have opened in Hudson — Smokedale Tobacco and The Hideaway.
Is it drug paraphernalia or isn't it?
The seizing of pipes and other merchandise from smoke shops is a controversial subject. It is common to seize such items as drug paraphernalia only when drug residue is found on them, but new items on store shelves aren't prosecutable under most laws.
"We were always under the assumption that if the pipe hadn't been used, it wasn't considered drug paraphernalia," Jensen told Patch in May. "Back at the end of March, I had seen an article in regards to Moorhead, MN, winning a court case in federal court in regards to their drug paraphernalia ordinance."
Andrew Nelson, the attorney representing both smoke shops, says the Moorhead case actually is still pending, and the chief acted too early. He also noted that The Hideaway also has locations operating without incident in Minneapolis, Oakdale and Rosemount — all cities that have similar drug paraphernalia ordinances.
"I don't think the court is going to say, 'The Hudson PD says that this is drug paraphernalia, so it is, and you're guilty,'" Nelson said last May. "Everybody knows that these items are not drug paraphernalia until someone adds the drug element to it. Everybody knows that. What they're trying to do is issue citations on the chance that somebody could use these for an illicit purpose. We have different laws in this country for that purpose."
In April, Jensen sent a notice to Left of Center informing them that he was changing the way the City of Hudson's drug paraphernalia ordinance would be enforced.
"Obviously we have a drug problem here in town," Jensen said in May. "With our limited resources, we can only do so much. If we can slow down people's ability to get drug paraphernalia, hopefully we're slowing down some of the drug use that's going on."
Though Jensen declined to comment on the trial currently underway, he did say that charges on The Hideaway likely would be dropped if the City of Hudson is not successful in prosecuting Left of Center.