Crack kits still being sold despite law change
LOUISVILLE, KY (WAVE) - It was easy.
Just walk up and ask for a kit, and convenience store clerks will bag up a glass crack pipe, chore boy scrubber that serves as a filter and sometimes a lighter, too.
Last April, a WAVE 3 News Troubleshooter crew went around Louisville undercover with a hidden camera and walked out of stores nine times with crack cocaine smoking kits.
"WAVE 3 News had a story that really showed it to everybody," Metro Council President David James said in September. "And it asks the question, 'Why aren't we doing something about it?'"
In October, Metro Council did something about it by passing amendments to two ordinances, making it unlawful to sell drug paraphernalia, and revoking the alcohol license of any business caught doing it.
Does anyone care?
Five months later, a WAVE 3 News Troubleshooter crew went back out undercover to see if the crack kit crackdown is having any effect.
Some got the memo.
"It was all on the news, you know?" one clerk asked, refusing to sell a kit. "They made it illegal. I don't know why; it's just glass."
It was a different story at Stop and Go on Poplar Level Road.
"Y'all got any rose kits?" we asked.
"Yes," the clerk said.
"You got the whole kit?" we asked.
"Like with the burn? Yeah," he said.
The Grocery Store on Rockford Lane bagged us up a kit. So did Stop And Save on 7th Street Road.
The Speedy Mart at 4th and Winkler was the focus of a WAVE 3 News Troubleshooter investigation in 2017 with all the drug dealing and using we recorded in the parking lot right outside the front door. They sold us a kit, too.
Some disguised the pipes, slipping them into cigar boxes or marketing them as Valentine's Day roses.
When the Troubleshooter crew went back to the stores and saw the workers who sold the kits to ask if they knew about the new ordinance designed to stop the sale of those kits, there was either confusion or outright denial.
"No, I don't know," the clerk said at Stop And Go. "We don't sell them here. We don't sell them."
"Actually you did sell us one," I said.
"I don't know," he said.
"We came in here the other day and bought one of these crack kits from you," I said to the clerk at Speedy Mart.
"From me?" he said.
"Yeah, you," I said.
"Personally? We don't sell that stuff, brother," he said.
"Yeah we had a hidden camera on," I said.
"Yeah we don't have that stuff. I don't know what you're talking about," he said.
"We came in here the other day and bought a crack pipe and chore boy from you," I said to the clerk and Stop And Save.
"OK," she said.
"Are you aware that these aren't legal?" I said.
"Oh no, actually I thought we're supposed to sell the straight pipes," she said.
"Do you guys sell this?" I asked the owner of The Grocery Store.
"No," he said.
"Well we bought one from you," I said. "Were you aware they passed a law now in the city where they can take a liquor license away if you sell drug paraphernalia, bowls, pipes, things like that?
"I'm ready to take them all in the garbage if that one is not legal," he said.
And that's what he did, on the spot, cleaning out his glass pipes and bongs and throwing them in the trash. We shared the results of our investigation with the head of the city department that's in charge of this enforcement: Alcoholic Beverage Control.
"They're out there every day, working undercover," ABC Administrator Robert Kirchdorfer said. He said his officers have cited eight stores since the Metro Council beefed up the law.
"Is it a case of ignorance of the law, or willful disobedience?" I asked.
"I've sat through a couple hearings where people are coming in and they just say they bought them from distributors and thought they were legal," Kirchdorfer said. "I can't go into the intent but I think it's pretty clear that these things are what they're used for."
"So if someone came in here today, you would not sell this?" I asked the owner of The Grocery Store.
"No way, no way," he said.
"Why not?" I asked.
"Because you told me that's what the people use them for, the crack and stuff like this," he said. "It's not healthy for the people you know."
Hearings are scheduled soon for the eight places cited by ABC. Kirchdorfer said he’ll push for fines for first offenses and alcoholic beverage license revocation for second offenses. He said they’ll review our findings in this story for any other violations.
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