The owner of a Van Nuys "head shop" has been convicted of violating a 1983 state law that makes it a misdemeanor to sell drug paraphernalia. It was the first such conviction in the San Fernando Valley.
A Van Nuys Municipal Court jury deliberated one day before finding Jack Herer, 46, guilty Tuesday of two counts of supplying pipes, spoons, vials and other items that, prosecutors said, he "reasonably should know" are intended to be used to ingest controlled substances.
Although the law took effect on Jan. 1, 1983, owners of such stores have challenged its constitutionality, calling the statute "vague and overbroad," according to Deputy City Atty. Jessica Perrin Silvers, who prosecuted the case.
The law was upheld last June by the appellate department of Los Angeles County Superior Court in a case involving a Los Angeles store, Silvers said. She said the ruling paved the way for Herer's case to go to trial.
Three other cases involving stores in the Valley are awaiting trial, she said.
Soon after the law was adopted, Los Angeles police began searching stores throughout the city and confiscating paraphernalia. However, many of the establishments, including Herer's store, continued operating while the owners awaited prosecution.
Herer's store, High Country, at Burbank Boulevard and Hazeltine Avenue, was searched on Feb. 11, 1983, and Jan. 10, 1984, Silvers said. More than 6,000 items were seized in each search, Silvers said.
Herer said after the verdict that the store specializes in tobacco and that the pipes and other items cited by the city are intended for use with smoking tobacco.
But Silvers successfully argued to the jury that the name of the store suggests that drug-related items are sold there. In addition, Silvers said, the "enormous quantity" of paraphernalia seized from Herer's store had only one common denominator: drugs, particularly marijuana and cocaine.
"It so overwhelmingly implies, 'Use me with drugs,' " Silvers said.
Herer will be sentenced Tuesday by Van Nuys Municipal Judge Leslie A. Dunn. He could receive up to a year in jail and a $2,000 fine, Silvers said. The law also provides that conviction can lead to revocation of a business license.