Recently, the City of Corpus Christi passed an ordinance banning Esse smoking products containing salvia divinorum and other similar chemicals. Salvia divinorum is an herb traditionally used by the Mazatec Indians of southern Mexico as part of their rituals. All our stores have stopped selling salvia divinorum and any similar products. We will not sell those products.

However, along with the ban on salvia divinorum, the city also passed a ban on any smoking paraphernalia that “can be used” with illegal smoking materials. This ordinance is extremely broad and criminalizes the display, possession, or sale of every pipe, cigar and rolling paper in Corpus Christi. This ordinance seems to require every tobacco accessory store in Corpus Christi to close. We hope this is not what the city intended.

Many of us have been in business for over ten years with no problems whatsoever with law enforcement. All of our stores are locally owned small businesses. Combined, we employ dozens of people and pay hundreds of thousands of dollars in city and state taxes. Our customers come from every walk of life — military personnel, senior citizens, business professionals, blue collar workers, students — all of them patronize our stores. We are part of this community and are proud to call Corpus Christi home.

Similar stores exist in major cities throughout Texas and have operated for decades without problems from law enforcement. Even without the city’s ordinance, paraphernalia is already illegal under state law. But state law requires police to prove the person charged with possession of paraphernalia had the intent to use the device with illegal drugs. The city’s ordinance removes the requirement that police prove intent and instead gives police broad powers to arbitrarily charge whoever they want. Will the police ticket the young person with the long hair and tattoos for having a pipe but let the elderly man with the corncob pipe go? Major grocery stores like Walmart and H-E-B display pipes and smoking accessories in plain sight. Why isn’t the city going after them? We do not believe the paraphernalia ordinance is constitutional and have filed a lawsuit against the city.

We want to see Corpus Christi grow and become the community we know it can be. But we cannot do business never knowing how the police will enforce a paraphernalia law that no one seems to understand. If the city insists on enforcing this ordinance, the result will be that many of us will relocate to a neighboring community that wants the business, jobs and tax revenue we bring. Why does the city want to chase away almost a dozen businesses that have been operating peacefully and legally for a decade in the middle of one of the worst recessions in American history? Help us by contacting your council member today — if not your business could face big brother next.