Citing the recent successes of Operation Pipe Dreams, an effort by the federal government to curtail the avaliability of drug paraphenelia, has launched into it's second stage Tuesday, as DEA agents accompanied by Portland police, raided supermarkets and confiscated their stock of canned soft drinks and beer, the cans which could potentially be used to smoke marijuana.
The latest phase of the campaign, let by US Attorney general John Ashcroft, was designed to send a clear message to would-be MacGyvers who seek to find alternative methods of drug use in the absence of traditional paraphenelia. Aluminum beverage containers of all sorts were removed from the shelves of many retailers Tuesday morning,
This operation was performed by federal agents, accompanied by the Portland Police. The department will receive federal monies for their role. "This will certainly offset some of the added costs of overtime, riot gear and pepperspray due to recent protests" said police spokesman Sgt. Brian Schmautz "Of course we wouldn't undertake such an endeavor if we didn't feel it was a noble cause"
At one Southeast Portland Fred Meyer store, Portland police in riot gear, apparently restless from several days of relatively light anti-war protest activity, smashed cans of soda with their clubs in a scene reminiscent of prohibition-era newsreels of speakeasy raids. When the assistant grocery manager asked one of the police what was going on he was quickly pepper sprayed, cuffed and arrested, and now faces several Measure 11 charges.
"Many people might consider such tactics heavy handed and unneccesary" said Ashcroft in a Tuesday news conference "But statistics show that 47% of youths using marijuana for the first time did so through an aluminum beverage container, and if we can root out the problem, we can win the war on drugs"
Unlike head shops selling products made exclusively retailers were not charged for the contraband, and in some cases, will be reimbursed for the confiscated product. "The objective is not to punish" said Schmautz. He added that retailers who continue to stock canned beverages are subject to fines.
Local beverage distributors are scrambling to replace the canned product with oil-based plastic containers that cannot be fashioned into drug paraphenelia. A spokesperson for Pepsi bottling company says it could take several days to a week to replenish store shelves
Although there was the predictable outrage by civil liberitarians, most Portland residents took the measures in stride. "I came here to pick up some 12 packs of Dr. Skipper" said housewife Lynn Butler, 43, as she shopped at a Safeway store in outer east Portland. "But at least now, I can let my kids go to the store and know they aren't going to the store to buy a can of pop and smoke pot out of it. God bless John Ashcroft for keeping our children safe."