City eyeing crackdown on paraphernalia sales

By HASKEL BURNS,

Chapter 3 of the Hattiesburg City Code, titled “Alcoholic Beverages and Tobacco,” lays out several guidelines for those items, such as hours of consumption of alcohol, possession of tobacco by juveniles under the age of 18, smoking bans and the prohibition of synthetic marijuana.

A revised title and stipulations may soon be added to that section of the code, as Hattiesburg Chief Administrative Officer Ann Jones proposed an ordinance Monday to Hattiesburg City Council members that would define drug paraphernalia and regulate the sale of certain items in the city.

“What you have before you today is a potential draft ordinance dealing with the paraphernalia,” Jones told council members. “This ordinance does not limit the sale of what could be considered paraphernalia beyond what the state statute allows – this is not changing state statute at all.

“What this does is simply creates a licensure permitting process if you are a business that intends to sell these kinds of products.”

Under the ordinance, the title of Chapter 3 would be amended to read “Alcoholic Beverages, Tobacco and Drugs,” with the creation of Chapter 3, Article VII, which would be titled “Drug Paraphernalia.” A second section, titled “License-Required for Sale,” would be created to make it unlawful for anyone to sell any items designed paraphernalia without obtaining an annual $150 license to do so.

“It also establishes a mechanism so that there is verification that the employees who are selling these items have never been convicted of a drug charge,” Jones said. “There is also language in this document that prohibits the sale of these types of items to persons under the age of 21 years old.”

The ordinance would allow for the display of tobacco-oriented rolling paper not necessarily designed for use with illegal drugs. Pipes also would be allowed, so long as they are displayed away from the proximity of rolling paper, roach clips, or literature encouraging the use of illegal drugs.

Any person violating the ordinance would be found guilty of a misdemeanor and punished by a fine of not less than $10 and not more than $500, by imprisonment not to exceed 90 days, or both.

Council members are expected to consider the ordinance and revisit it at a future date.

“Certainly, if you have input, we’d like to have those comments back,” Jones said. “But like I said, this is more of a licensing permitting process for what could be considered paraphernalia.”