MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — A northwestern Minnesota shop that sells tobacco, pipes and other products has sued the city of Moorhead over the way police are enforcing a new ordinance outlawing drug paraphernalia.

In a lawsuit filed this week in federal court, attorneys for Discontent are asking for a temporary restraining order that would keep police from enforcing the ordinance, which makes it illegal to sell items that are intended for use with controlled substances.

In the lawsuit, Discontent and its owner, Disc & Tape, say the pipes and other devices it sells are intended to be used to smoke tobacco and other legal herbs. The lawsuit says some of the items “may incidentally resemble devices used to smoke controlled substances” but do not constitute drug paraphernalia under the ordinance.

According to the lawsuit, police told employees that regardless of the intent, the devices in the store were illegal. Discontent closed on Jan. 10, the day the ordinance went into effect, out of fear that employees would be arrested.

In addition to the restraining order, the store is seeking an order declaring that enforcement of the ordinance is unconstitutional. The store is also seeking damages from lost income since it has been closed. That amount would be determined at trial.

City attorney Brian Neugebauer said Moorhead plans to fight the complaint.

“The city is confident the ordinance is constitutional and prohibits the sale of illegal items,” Neugebauer said. “They’ve always disagreed. To them, there is no such thing as drug paraphernalia.”

Neugebauer said the ordinance is patterned after North Dakota’s statewide ban on drug paraphernalia.

Randall Tigue, an attorney for Discontent, said Moorhead’s ordinance isn’t that different from Minnesota’s statute, but under state law, in order to prove an item is drug paraphernalia there has to be intent to use it with illegal substances.

He said in Moorhead, when police say pipes with certain physical characteristics are illegal regardless of their intent, “that essentially puts my clients out of business.”

The lawsuit also states that the plaintiffs have collected more than enough signatures to force a referendum. Under the city charter, the ordinance would stay in effect until repealed by referendum, which wouldn’t come up for a vote until November 2013.

(© Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

Comments (5)
  1. alligator says:

    the slope is slippery when gov’t intrudes like this on the people…this ordinance is wrong and a big step in the wrong direction.

  2. commonsense says:

    Cigarettes and cigars should be illegal. You can split them open, remove tobacco and fill with illicit substances.

    Lightbulbs should be illegal. People use them to smoke illicit substances.

    Fruit should be illegal. People use them to smoke illicit substances.

    I fully support the shop and their fight, You can’t simply ban all items that people may use against their intended purpose. Punish the action not the what if…

    Regardless, we should be moving in the OTHER direction. Regardless of where you stand on the issue, you can not deny the financial effects and our country needs the boost. Creating a police state and backing the prison industry is not helping our society progress period.

  3. Serpico says:

    Cop: Hmmm, that Bic lighter you have could be used to smoke crack. Therefore we are going to seize your car, search and trash your house, take your computers and publish your name in the paper.

    Don’t worry, we won’t abuse our power.

  4. commonsense says:

    Well said Serpico. Don’t forget the assault with a deadly weapon charges though…Lighters can be used for arson too.

  5. J D FROM ALA says:

    Now the law is able to read one’s mind (intent)? Just for s… and grins, what am I thinking?

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