While drug cartel-related violence worsens in Mexico, San Francisco is trying to get to the root of its own drug problems by going after smoke shops.
San Francisco filed a lawsuit against Smokes Etc and five other local smoke shops in the Mission and Ingleside neighborhoods, accusing them of illegally selling drug paraphernalia used exclusively by crack, cocaine, and meth users.
Since last year, these shops have consistently sold the clear, tubular glass pipes that are specific to the ingestion of crack and meth. Police have persistently warned the shops that the sale of this paraphernalia is illegal. In October, police went undercover and bought crack pipes from the various smoke shops.
Shop owners have ignored all the warnings and continued to sell the drug equipment in a commercial and residential area, just five blocks from four pre-schools, a middle school, two Head Start Programs, community centers, playgrounds, and a drug and alcohol recovery center, according to the lawsuit.
It's contributing to an increased presence of drug dealers and drug users in the surrounding neighborhoods, city attorneys argue.
Supervisor John Avalos, who represents the Mission District, told SF Weekly that he never wanted that many smoke shops concentrated in one area. But are the businesses contributing to the drug movement in the neighborhood?
"It's unclear to me," Avalos said. "It's not that the neighborhood is inundated with drug dealing. so it's not that bad, but we could do better."
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