It's no secret drugs are a major problem right here in the Mid-South and across the country. But are some local stores contributing to this epidemic clutching Memphis?
Imagine walking into a convenience store or a gas station when you happen upon what is called a "glass rose." Ask anyone in the know and they'll tell you it's actually used as a crack pipe. But, through my exclusive investigation I discovered where these glass roses are sold and there's so much more.
I walked into a local store, identifying myself as a FOX13 reporter. "Why are you guys selling crack kits?"
Tim Helldorfer, Director of the West Tennessee Drug Task Force says, "You take the rose out and it's a crack pipe."
It's a simple Pyrex glass pipe with a plastic rose inside being disguised as a trinket for your girlfriend.
Former drug user Dwayne Johnson says, "You take the rose out, get a piece of Chore Boy, stick it in there, get it tight, real good, then take the crack, set it in there and take your lighter and light it. Your cocaine will come out as a cloud of smoke."
If you didn't know until now, this is a crack pipe and it can be sold in bulk; then bought in gas stations and convenience stores across the metro area.
Helldorfer says, "That's a problem because you can sell this legally. There's not a problem with this until it's used illegally."
Now let's go one step further than the pipe sold where children buy candy bars. I discovered where there's a glass rose, in many cases, so much more items are sold.
I asked Vince Higgins with the DA's Office, "Vince what is this?" " This is what we in the business call a 'bobby brown' or a 'brown bag special.'"
Just ask for a simple brown bag special, if the clerk behind the counter agrees, they'll pack a sack for you with everything you need to smoke crack.
Inside the brown bag - a glass rose, chore boy, and a lighter. Other than the crack rock that's everything you need to smoke crack.
Higgins says, "We know that these three items together most often times are used to smoke illegal drugs, specifically crack."
Using both a hidden camera and one of our field cameras I walked into gas stations and convenience stores across the city looking to see if I could buy that "brown bag special;" from Lamar to Winchester and then to Getwell. I walked in with cash in hand.
Now to put things into perspective, selling the brown bag special is illegal in the state of Tennessee but only if law enforcement can prove the employee who sold it knew you were going to smoke illegal drugs with it.
Higgins says, "If they sell it as a package then you know they have knowledge that this is being used for something other than lawful means."
With only a couple of exceptions every attempted buy went as expected. Going in with 5-dollars and coming out with that special package.
Helldorfer says, "It's everywhere."
Inside a store off Winchester, on two separate occasions, I bought the bags and the clerk was kind enough to already have the chore boy pre-cut to fit into the pipe; by law enforcement accounts, a possible violation against state laws on drug paraphernalia. But, again they'd have to prove the employee had actual knowledge that the buyer was about to smoke crack.
"You have to be able to prove that the clerk knew that you were going to use this brown bag special to smoke drugs. That's a hard reach" said Higgins.
So I went back. Walking into one of the stores where I bought a brown bag special and I decided to ask the obvious question, "Can you tell me why you guys sell this?" Without a direct response I asked, "Are you asking us to leaving your property." Then the store worker said, "Yeah."
Law enforcement knows despite tough laws it's a paraphernalia problem that may be getting worse and a problem that's certainly not going away.
Helldorfer says, "If the stores' owners would look at it what's best for their neighborhoods, if they have a vested interest in their neighborhood they wouldn't even have this type of stuff in their store."
Johnson says, "What kind of advice would you give to these gas stations who are selling this stuff all around Memphis? What would you tell them? I wish you'd quit it. You're messing a lot of peoples' lives up by selling this here. You think you are helping your business but you're ruining live's too."