Smoke shop owner who said bongs were only for tobacco convicted of selling drug paraphernalia

The owner of a pipe and bong store in the Philadelphia suburbs, caught up in a crackdown on head shops, was convicted Monday of selling drug paraphernalia.

Craig Hennesy, 49, whose Piper’s Smoke Shop opened in 2016 in Limerick near Ursinus College, could get two years in jail and be fined $10,000 when he is sentenced on two misdemeanor counts.

Hennesy was convicted by a Montgomery County Court jury despite hearing testimony from a retired county chief of detectives who said the products sold were legitimate.

“I was beyond stunned,” Hennesy, who is free on bail, said Tuesday. He declined further comment.

The retired chief of detectives, Oscar P. Vance Jr., testified that in his opinion the smoking accessories and rolling papers were not drug paraphernalia and reasonably could be used for tobacco.

No marijuana was sold at the shop at 196 W. Ridge Pike, Assistant District Attorney Evan Correia said in an interview.  Numerous signs inside stated the smoking accessories were sold to be used with tobacco only and all purchases included a free bag of tobacco.

Correia said the case was “difficult to try.”

“I had to overcome the fact that everything was being displayed and advertised for tobacco use only,” Correia said. “But I argued that no one was smoking tobacco out of a three-foot bong. The jury agreed.”

By early 2018, medical marijuana is expected to be available for Pennsylvania patients with 17 qualifying conditions. Only oils, vape cartridges, tinctures, and lotions will be on sale at nearly two dozen dispensaries across the state. The law forbids all smokable plant materials. New Jersey’s governor-elect, Phil Murphy, has promised to legalize all forms of marijuana for adult recreational use next year.

So why prosecute a small head shop for selling stoner accessories? Because drug paraphernalia remains prohibited in Pennsylvania.

Correia said he could not comment on whether the county planned to continue a campaign against smoke shops.

“Right now it’s illegal. If the law changes, our position will change as well,” Correia said. “But right now it’s illegal, and that’s the way we view it.”