Pa. pipe shop owner sentenced for selling pot paraphernalia

The owner of three pipe shops in the Philadelphia suburbs, convicted in November of selling drug paraphernalia, was sentenced Thursday to a year of probation and was forced to give up his stores.

Craig Hennesy, 49, was caught up in a rare crackdown on head shops spearheaded by the county Montgomery County District Attorney’s office. On Aug. 31, police and county detectives raided Piper’s Smoke Shop in Limerick and seized more than 2,000 glass smoking devices — including water pipes and bongs — and an undetermined amount of rolling papers and tobacco.

Water pipes and bongs traditionally are used to smoke marijuana — but not always. During Hennesy’s trial, the retired county chief of detectives testified the devices were not drug paraphernalia and reasonably could be used to consume tobacco. No marijuana was sold at the shop at 196 W. Ridge Pike.

“I had signs up everywhere saying “For Tobacco Use Only. There were no drugs anywhere,” said Hennesy, who now works in a machine shop. “When the undercover cop came into my store, he was instructed that everything was only to be used for tobacco and he was given a small bag of tobacco with the clear glass chillum that he bought.”

The bust and Hennesy’s conviction came less than a year before state-sanctioned medical marijuana dispensaries opened for business in February. Though vaporizing cannabis is permitted under state law, combusting marijuana in any form remains illegal in Pennsylvania. Later this summer, dispensaries will begin to offer dry leaf marijuana and flower for sale.

Detectives raided other pipe shops in the county, but Hennesy — who said he had no criminal record–  was the only owner to be prosecuted on criminal charges “because I asked for my stuff back” after the raid.

He estimated that his wholesale cost for the seized glass pipes, some of them works of art, was upwards of $100,000.

Hennesy said the judge was “extremely fair considering what the DA’s office wanted him to do,” which would have been a sentence of two years in jail and a $10,000 fine.

Because working in a pipe shop would have caused him to violate his probation, Hennesy said he no longer owns his two other stores in Malvern and Elverson in Chester County.

“I’ve lost everything,” he said. “But I’m an entrepreneur. I’ll be back with another business soon.”