Should Crack Pipes Be Sold At Convenience Stores?

The Boston City Council has proposed a ban on the sale of “four-inch glass tubes featuring fake mini-roses” commonly sold at convenience stores, because they’re actually crack pipes. From BostonNow:

They look like novelty items, but they’re not. For sale at convenience stores in Boston, four-inch glass tubes featuring fake mini-roses inside of them are actually crack pipes.

BostonNOW’s reporter entered a Blue Hill Avenue store yesterday afternoon, asked the clerk for a “straight shooter,” and received the glass tube, flower and a steel wool pad (to be used as a filter when smoking crack).

In response to situations like these, City Councilor Chuck Turner and other councilors, including Felix Arroyo and Michael Flaherty, have filed an ordinance to prohibit the sale of these pipes, also known as “rosebuds” or “stems.”

“As a community, we need to work together on issues of drugs and violence,” said Turner. “The business community needs to work with us as well. We have to find many creative ways to lessen the use of drugs.”

“For young people to see [crack pipes] so openly in stores, they think it’s acceptable,” said Arroyo, “and it is not.”

The ordinance, if passed, would call for a $300 fine to both stores who sell the crack pipes and people possessing them. —MEGHANN MARCO

Crack pipes come easy at convenience stores [Boston NOW]


Edit Your Comment

  1. mbrutsch says:

    I’m confused. Normally, Consumerist helps defend consumers against evil corporations. How does this item fit into that rubric? Are we angry that we can’t get our mini-roses? Just askin’.

  2. rmz says:

    Wow, that’s messed up.

    Don’t the people who run those stores have any conscience? Handing out ready-made “crack kits” consisting of Everything You Need to Start Smokin’, Just Add Crack(tm) seems to be akin to giving a drunk guy keys to his car, along with another bottle of booze for the road. You’re fully aware of what you’re helping the person do.

    Selling all of the necessary ingredients in the store is one thing (it’d be pretty ludicrous to outlaw steel wool and those little tubes, given that they have other uses) but selling ready-made kits is pretty flagrant.

  3. levenhopper says:

    Or are we outraged at the sale of an item that just because it may be abused by some people, makes it bad for all of us.

  4. OminousG says:

    This ordinance would be pointless, the stores would just switch to glass pens. Which actually have a use and come with a tool to help pack the steel wool.

    Yeah, I’ve been down that road. Boston is way behind.

  5. skittlbrau says:

    perhaps consumerist is outraged because crack is whack?

  6. levenhopper says:

    @rmz: No, the reporter asked for the “straght shooter”, and was handed three seprate items. The store isn’t to blame, but the clerk is…

  7. maddypilar says:

    Or as the title suggests – is it open to debate?

    I suggest that it is my answer.

    While the glass tube isn’t all that objectionable just because it might be used to smoke crack, selling it with steel wool is sort of telling – but so are all the “tobacco water pipes” sold in head shops on St. Marks.

  8. dbeahn says:

    These shouldn’t be sold in convenience stores, unless they’re stocked next to the guns, beside the ammo and one isle over from the porn…

  9. rmz says:

    @levenhopper: Well, that’s what I was referring to. The clerk was providing a kit consisting of various items. By extension, the store is providing the service to people since the clerk is a direct representative of the store while he’s standing behind the counter.

  10. matukonyc says:

    If you know the right code word you can buy a crack pipe and the accompanying steel wool and whatnot in small convenience stores all over the country. Here in Brooklyn it was “Ali Baba” for a while.

    Why bother banning them? Do you think people will stop smoking crack?

  11. Skiffer says:

    I think it’s pretty safe to say that banning the sale of these will not result in even one less person smoking crack…

    At least the state gets sales tax on legally sold paraphernalia…just sayin’…

  12. zentec says:

    I understand the premise here; that these things are available at a corner convenience store right out in the open. I’ve seen them, and I had no idea what they were (until now).

    However, at what point do we just tell government that no matter what they do, crack users will get their high? It’s not like glass tubes are not available elsewhere. If the town doesn’t have a local chem lab supply store, then I’m sure there’s some neon signs a desperate crack user can throw rocks at long enough to get a chunk of glass pipe. Or, they can just use mail order.

    When does the citizens of this country put their foot down and ask the government to treat the illness and stop taking things away from people because they might hurt themselves with it.


  13. mantari says:

    What, you mean that ‘cigarette papers’ have some other nefarious purpose, too?

  14. zentec says:

    Ick. I was riled up enough with my rant that I really made some mistakes. Oh well, even the most casual user should be able to figure it out.

  15. Skiffer says:

    @mantari: Hey man, I actually roll tobacco with those…it’s cheaper, and I gotta afford my crack somehows

  16. Wormfather says:

    Where’s my razorblade suitcase? This is discriminitory!

  17. jwarner132 says:


    Speaking of consciences at convenience stores, I used to work for a Hess gas station and convenience store in Worcester, MA. I don’t have super-high opinions about the company, but one thing I do admire is that (at least in that district) the stores weren’t allowed to sell those “flower stems”.

    People used to stop by all the time asking for them though, and there were some really sketchy characters. I remember this one scantly-clad woman came in twice during the same night to ask if I sold “flower stems”. Each time she came in a different car with a different man waiting in it. Can anyone say “crack whore”?

  18. jeffj-nj says:

    If the headline is meant to actually pose the question to us readers, I’ll gladly answer that yes, crack pipes should be sold at stores. Heck, sell the crack too if you’ve got it. Making drugs illegal does not impede drug use; it merely enriches drug dealers while getting police officers killed.

  19. yetiwisdom says:

    I think all acrylic and glass tubing should be outlawed at all retail outlets because they can be made into bongs and crack pipes. Also apples, cardboard paper rolls, tinfoil, copper pipe, flasks, any kind of clipping device, paper, soda in cans, screening, rubber stoppers, Phish, Rusted Root and Grateful Dead records, tye-dye, Patagonia and Birkenstock clothing … really, what would an honest, non-drug addled citizen need with such trash?

    My sweetheart loves those little roses.

  20. scoobydoo says:

    That is awesome. For years the US has been bashing The Netherlands for making it legal to buy weed, and now it turns out they’ve been legally selling crack smoking kits in convenience stores :D

  21. saram says:


    Yes. Crack is whack. This is the reason for my outrage!

  22. FromThisSoil says:

    If you want to ban one thing, you have to ban it all. Who hasn’t seen a bong in a “novelty” store for “tobacco use only.”

    I’ve even seen crack pipes for sale under the guise it’s for tobacco use – get real.

    These types of stores also sell “jewelry bags” and “spice grinders” – didn’t you know? It’s all for tobacco!

    No one’s being fooled.

  23. Pelagius says:

    But now what will I buy for my 16 inch tall girlfriend on those special occasions?

  24. MeanMachine says:

    McDonald’s used to have little coffee stirrers that were in fact perfectly engineered for use as coke spoons. They stopped using them a long time back due to some anus’s public outrage that their product could be misused.

  25. Yourhero88 says:

    Wait wait wait wait wait… does this mean that I can’t get my lil’ plastic roses anymore?

    SON OF A…

  26. cgmaetc says:

    First of all, the tubes are not made to be crack pipes, crackheads have just happened to have found that they serve that purpose well. Any slender glass tube should be banned if this is the precedent. No more eye-glass fix kits or tweezer cases!

  27. gondaba says:

    I’m not sure how much I would buy what BostonNOW has to say. For starters, the newspaper is not more than a month old. Ever since their first issue they have had three or four thugs around Downtown Crossing everyday, touting their paper as if it is crack.

  28. brendahamLincoln says:

    The liquor store on my corner sells bongs and ninja stars. What does this have to do with the topic at hand? Nothing. I just wanted to share with the world how awesome that liquor store is.

  29. CaptainRoin says:

    Maybe we could tax the hell out of them like alcohol , tobacco and gasahol. PROFIT!

  30. roamer1 says:

    @rmz: There were some convenience stores in my hometown (Chattanooga/northwest Georgia) that got in very hot water a few months ago for selling various items needed to produce meth — in several cases, the items were all together in the store even though having them together makes no sense unless you’re making a one-stop meth supplies shop (which some of the c-store owners pretty much admitted to doing.)

  31. Yourhero88 says:

    @brendahamLincoln: Either that, or they are trying to mellow out your community’s ninja population by luring them in for ninja stars.

  32. dwarf74 says:

    @maddypilar: You know, the only thing I’ve smoked out of water pipes is tobacco. They sell an awesome variety of hookah tobacco flavors, and it’s really quite relaxing.

  33. B says:

    Of course crack pipes should be sold in convenience stores, otherwise they wouldn’t be be very convenient.

  34. RandomHookup says:

    Were these City Councilors in the Army back in the early ’80s? Cause back then, we were warned every piece of equipment could be used by troops to get high. Gas mask? Check. Mess kits? Check. The plastic explosive in Claymore mines? Check.

  35. AcidReign says:

    …..Well, I think the FDA should come down on those stores like a ton of bricks! You know, those probably aren’t Pyrex tubes, and burning crack in them could result in breaking, or dangerous chemicals getting in the product stream! You’d think that the government would rather the kids have safe crack pipes. They should probably have a safe crack-pipe subsidy for underprivledged kids! Wouldn’t you rest better knowing your kids were using safe pipes? If these folks don’t watch it, their kids will be back to huffing paint and glue in grocery sacks, and civilization will fall!

  36. Yoni K says:

    I never knew what those were, until i was in line at a convenience store in Dorchester behind an “eccentric” young/old woman who said to the clerk “And give me one of those crackpipes… I mean roses.”
    I used to share this nugget of wisdom as a conversation piece… looks like Boston PD (or city councilors) have screwed me over again…

  37. Crazytree says:

    @levenhopper: So right. I am outraged that the next time I need a tiny little plastic rose encased in a glass tube I won’t be able to get one!

  38. royal72 says:

    better ban light bulbs too, we had a methhead working at my company some years back and he’d use them to make makeshift pipes.

  39. aiken says:

    Perhaps they should pass a law banning meanness. Then everyone would be nice.

    I’m not sure which is worse: politicians being so clueless about human nature and how black markets work, or politicians who are well aware of those things and cynically pretend otherwise so they can look like they’re doing good without actually doing any good at all.

  40. homersays says:

    Well, being in recovery and working in a rehab I know that even when they ‘stop selling them’ at gas stations, they are still usually sold behind the counter. As one gas station clerk told me, “Well I bought a few cases and I am not going to lose money.”

    Nuff Said. Where I grew up on Long Island, they were $5 each.

  41. littlemonster says:

    I think they should sell them. Crack users will get them somewhere anyway, and if they can’t easily find them, they steal sparkplugs off of motorcycles and use them to smoke their crack. I park my motorcycle outdoors and would rather have the pipes be available.

  42. Captaffy says:

    If selling crack pipes at convenience stores leads to at least one crack head not sharing their pipe, and thus not getting some communicable disease, then I say it’s worth it.

    In Ottawa, the city gives away crack pipes in the hope that it will cut down on the spread of Hepatitis. (It’s constantly the subject of debate though.)

  43. nighthwk1 says:

    Remember how we made crack illegal, and you can’t get crack anymore?

  44. plim says:

    @cgmaetc: uh, all the eye-glass fix kits or tweezer cases i’ve ever bought were made out of plastic.

    those be some pimpin’ eye-glass fix kits and tweezer cases you be buyin’ =)

  45. Michael Bauser says:

    The real consumer issue here is that people have to buy the tubes separately from the crack. What, the cheapass crack dealers can’t throw in a ten-cent plastic tube with a purchase of rock? Those inconsiderate anti-consumerist bastards!

    But seriously, this isn’t a new issue. Detroit went through this argument back in the 1990s (apparently, the Detroit City Council knew crack was whack before the Boston City Council). It’s been so long, I don’t even remember if they passed a law about it.

    I used to see similar tubes in convenience stores in Phoenix, AZ all the time. In fact, just google “convenience store crack pipe”, and you’ll find versions of this story on news websites across the country. It’s a very trendy issue for city councils.

  46. Techguy1138 says:

    The Point of this isn’t to stop crack from being smoked. The point is to determine WHERE crack is smoked.

    By making it more difficult to get a hold of pipes in certain neighborhoods it discourages people from consuming and buying crack there. Since crack rocks are an immediate use item.

    This will help push crack use out of nice neighborhoods as store owners willingly comply and less then nice places by selective enforcement. Leaving only the worst places with E-Z to buy crack pipes.

  47. mwdavis says:

    In Houston, the convenience stores sold pens that “just happened” to have a glass tube comprising the pen’s body. Get all excited about roses, and you’ll get pens. Get all excited about roses and pens and you’ll get pencil leads, etc., ad infinitum.

    Crack is class warfare.
    Tubes are profitable.
    A winning combination in America.

  48. mwdavis says:

    @Techguy1138: Bravo. You nailed that one.

  49. hushed says:

    I used to manage a convenience store. This was 9 years ago, when I was only twenty years old.

    We had some vendors that had negotiated with corporate. The would get to bring in a display rack and put in whatever they liked. We had one vendor who did bring the rose vial things in. I didn’t think of drug paraphernalia and probably won’t three weeks from now if I seem them in the store.

  50. velocipenguin says:

    A few years ago, I entered a convenience store on Mass Ave. in Boston (near Marlborough St.) to get a snack. While waiting in line to pay, I noticed that the store had rose tubes, miniature baggies, and small scales prominently displayed on the counter – one-stop shopping for crackheads and dealers alike.

  51. 0x12is18 says:

    @Michael_Bauser: I’d like to see someone try to smoke anything out of a plastic pipe :)

  52. s00p3rm4n says:

    These won’t get banned as long as the U.S. government (who, if we will remember our history correctly, introduced crack into American society) continues to make money by incarcerating crack smokers, cycling them through the criminal justice system, and spewing them back out to retrieve later.

    I’m amazed companies aren’t giving them to the poor for free.

  53. Grrrrrrr, now with two buns made of bacon. says:

    Well, banning the sale of such won’t solve the crack problem, but I don’t see why store clerks should make it any easier, either, so I’d support the ban.

    Of course, a ban would just move the stuff under the counter, and then you’d have to send in undercover narcs to see if the store would sell the kit to an undercover agent (just like they do to ferret out underage liquor sales).

  54. cgmaetc says:

    @plim: you know it baby… only the best!

    While there are cheaper versions at the impulse counter at your local drug store, the beauty salons and supply stores do carry $50+ tweezers in glass cases.

  55. Kalik says:

    Why can’t they just go to a head shop? Or do those not exist in the US?

  56. Trai_Dep says:

    Isn’t smoking steel wool bad for your health? Oops, never mind.

  57. FLConsumer says:

    Holy shit! Using that logic, PCs should be banned, since they are used for pirating movies and music!

  58. quantum-shaman says:

    Yes and let’s also ban aluminum cans immediately, because everyone knows how easily they can be turned into disposable pot pipes. Mmmm.

  59. Trai_Dep says:

    Mmmmm. Pot Pipes…

    I’m sorry. Where were we?

  60. FLConsumer says:

    Wait…let’s ban cars & SUVs since those are used to purchase these terrible items!

  61. emilysweeney says:

    Yup, they’re selling these rosebuds in my neighborhood, too.

    Check out my blog post from May 2, 2007:

    It’s so sad. Whenever I walk into that Store 24, part of me wants to buy every single box of them, just to get them off the shelves. But I don’t….I don’t want give any $$ to that company; they’re probably making a killing on these things.

    Emily Sweeney
    The Boston Globe

  62. goater says:

    These pipes have been around for a while.
    for an article dated August 2005 about them.

    Having lived in Lawrence, KS (where the linked article was published), many of the shadier gas stations carry the “sweetheart rose” tubes, both in Lawrence and nationwide; the same gas stations with the multiple varieties of cigarette and blunt papers in various exciting flavors, “energy pills” like yellowjackets, no-doz and friends, other more conspicuous paraphrenalia (pipes, clips, etc), cheap folding knives at the cash register, and the widest selection of cigarettes and malt liquor in town… And the same stations that were earlier in trouble in Lawrence for selling miniature switchblades, right next to the high-pressure butane jet lighters.

    These are gas stations/convenience stores that have absolutely no qualms about selling whatever they think people will buy; they’re veritable vice dealers. Gasoline is just there as bait. I’ll reserve passing moral judgement on the store owners for another day, but it really does make me pause to think a bit about the ease of access and high visibility for these kinds of materials. My vote: make it all legal and maybe the layer of grease I can’t help but feel over these supplies and suppliers will wash clean, or at least cleaner…

  63. martymcflyer says:

    How clueless was I….
    I bought one of these “mini rose stems” for my girlfriend on my way out of the convenience store. I quickly realized what I had done when her dad said “you little F@%# buying a crack pipe for my daughter”. That didn’t go very well at all!