Columbia City Council passes paraphernalia ordinance but reassures businesses

Published: Aug. 15, 2023 at 7:24 PM EDT|Updated: Aug. 15, 2023 at 7:33 PM EDT
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COLUMBIA, S.C. (WIS) - The Columbia City Council passed a sweeping ordinance that outlaws an expansive list of products in the city - if they’re found in connection to illegal drugs.

In back-to-back public meetings, councilmembers and Columbia Police Chief Skip Holbrook reassured businesses the products, by themselves, would not violate the ordinance. This issue had been a concern for some smoke shop owners.

“It’s the use of that instrument in conjunction with an illegal drug to introduce that into your body. We spent a lot of time talking about violent crime and the impact that has on our community, often times our emerging drug threats get overlooked,” Holbrook said.

The ordinance lists more than 20 products which are now deemed paraphernalia if found in the wrong circumstances. They include pipes, syringes, scales, and blenders among other equipment.

Violating the ordinance carries a fine of up to $500 and 30 days in prison.

The council’s public safety committee and full council approved the ordinance in back-to-back meetings on Tuesday after originally slow-rolling the ordinance in July.

The delay only resulted in minor changes, including the removal of needles and testing equipment as paraphernalia.

At-Large City Councilman Howard Duvall spearheaded the ordinance’s passage through both meetings. He argued the ordinance will allow Columbia Police Officers to act on illegal drugs more quickly.

“This will allow them to get people maybe using illegal substances right away instead of waiting for a test to come home,” he said.

Illuminati Glass Gallery & Smoke Shop owner Andrew Bagley had previously expressed concerns about the implications of the ordinance for his business but said he had no issues given the city’s clarification.

“I don’t think it’s going to hurt anything based off what I’ve heard at this point, and it seems like they addressed our concerns,” he said.

Many of the objects outlined in the ordinance are already illegal per state law.

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