The owner of Smoke City, a tobacco and accessories shop on Highway 395, may move his shop out of Hermiston after a unanimous vote by the Hermiston City Council Monday night making it illegal for businesses to sell specific items that could be used as drug paraphernalia.
Council members voted to amend an ordinance that already bans the sale of drug paraphernalia within 1,000 feet of a public or private school. The amended ordinance was passed by emergency,
The previous ordinance stated it is illegal to sell or be in possession of items that could be used for smoking, inhaling or ingesting drugs, such as marijuana, cocaine, and hashish, within 1,000 feet of a school. The amended ordinance names the items that are prohibited, including ice pipes, chillums, miniature cocaine spoons, ceramic pipes and bongs.
City Manager Ed Brookshier said there was a potential issue with drug paraphernalia being sold within 1,000 feet of a school.
“Frankly, this is intended to be pre-emptive to that type of activity,” Brookshier said.
Brookshier said the primary intent is to make sure drug paraphernalia sales are prohibited within a specified distance of a school.
Police Chief Jason Edmiston said the ordinance will make it easier for the police department because of the specified distance between schools and those who sell drug paraphernalia.
An employee at the smoke shop along said the business sells seven of those items, including ceramic and glass pipes, bongs, water pipes, roach pipes that hold cigarettes and electric pipes.
Mayor Dave Drotzmann said he had expected to see a representative from the store at the meeting Monday night.
“It could significantly affect them,” Drotzmann said after the meeting. “We wanted to make sure we don’t have kids walking by a business that solicits illegal paraphernalia.”
Owner Mo Jabr said he sells about 50 percent of the items considered illegal in his store, which is situated directly across from Sunset Elementary School on Highway 395.
Jabr said he and his employee have been cautious of customers’ ages since he opened six months ago.
“Everyone (who) comes inside is 18 and up,” he said.
An employee behind the desk said those who enter the store are checked for their identification, and if it doesn’t look legal, staff “kick them out.”
Jabr said he did not sell his products to be used as drug paraphernalia.
“Everything here (is) for tobacco,” Jabr, said. “Some people use it for something different.”
The Kennewick, Wash., man said he has another smoke shop in the Tri-Cities area but believes the shop is good business for Hermiston.
“If you don’t like me here, I (will) leave,” he said.
Jabr said he spent between $50,000 and $60,000 to open the store and stated if he needed to move he would have liked to know ahead of time.
“Nobody come ask me for anything,” he said. “At least, I need six months to find (a) location. If I find a new location soon, I move.”
City Attorney Gary Luisi, who helped establish the changes, said the shop was not discussed when he helped draft the ordinance amendment for consideration by the council. Luisi said the distance of 1,000 feet between an establishment that sold items considered as drug paraphernalia was discussed.
Luisi said the city did not contact the store about the proposed ordinance but is not required to do so before taking action.
Luisi said he did not know what would happen to Jabr’s business. The ordinance, however, is effective immediately.
The ordinance also states drug paraphernalia used in violation of the ordinance will be seized and given to the city.
Luisi said there is not an exception for a business already selling what the city now specifies as drug paraphernalia.
“There’s no grandfather clause in the ordinance,” Luisi said.