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Criminal Justice Task Force Efforts to Reduce Access to Drug Paraphernalia

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by Jackie Christner

After a long hiatus, JONAH’s Criminal Justice Task Force has renewed energy under the guidance of Chairman Anthony Ledford. He has assembled a diverse group of workers to focus on doable projects to stem the epidemic of Methamphetamine and heroin use in western Wisconsin, especially in and around the Eau Claire area. JONAH has worked in the past to increase treatment and alternatives to incarceration for those suffering from addiction and/or mental illness. That work will continue, but the task force recognizes the importance of community involvement to combat this epidemic. There are many aspects to the problem, so the task force has decided to begin with one aspect which has not received any attention and of which the public is mostly unaware.

The public is likely aware that any individual caught by police with drug paraphernalia will likely be incarcerated and/or fined. It is illegal to carry. However, how many are aware that it is perfectly legal to make, store, and sell these same items? The JONAH CJTF wants to inform the public of which stores in our area are selling meth and heroin drug paraphernalia and help convince the owners of these shops to cease these sales and remove all such items from their stores. 

Two CJTF members (Anthony Ledford and Sharon Stedman) went to these stores and took videos of their drug items to use to show the community what they look like. They also asked the owners to remove the items so as to not encourage drug use. Task Force member Gene Walsh, owner of Earth Media, designed a flyer to help educate these store owners about how they are profiting off the death and destruction of our communities and families by selling meth and heroin paraphernalia and for community members to recognize these products when they see them. 

The task force checked back with the owners after a month. Out of the four who sold the paraphernalia, two had closed due to COVID, but two refused to stop selling the items. Smokedale in Menomonie not only refused, but even threatened the members. Pure Pleasures in Hallie also refused to stop selling their paraphernalia. However, there was an entirely different response from Azara. They and all 18 of their locations have taken a stance from the beginning that they will not sell this type of product in their stores, knowing full well that no matter what name you put on these products (tobacco pipe, liquid incense burner), they are in fact used only for meth and heroin. In fact, the CJTF and Azara have partnered to achieve this goal and more.

The JONAH CJTF encourages everyone to boycott Smokedale and Pure Pleasures and, if you are a smoker, use other stores, such as Azara’s.  Also, please call these stores and tell them to stop selling these items in our community. Meth Equals Death. 

The Task Force has met with WI State Representative Jodi Emerson, who is in favor of combating these store practices. She is investigating the feasibility of proposing a bill to make such sales illegal. We encourage you to contact her and urge her to do so at Rep.Emerson@legis.wisconsin.gov. Please contact other legislators as well about this issue.

If interested in joining the JONAH Criminal Justice Task Force or interested in more information on the task force or this project, contact Anthony Ledford at silverfox445656@gmail.com. Kelly Mahoney, and EXPO/FREE Leader is co-chairing the task force.