Beside a row of lighters and cleaning products on the shelf above the cigarettes sits four glass pipes in Mohammad Saleem's downtown convenience store.
Some look like a smaller version of a bong, often used to smoke marijuana, but they don't have any symbols on them — they're just clear glass.
Saleem, owner of the Royal Supermart on King Street East, said he knows these items can be used to smoke illegal substances, but he said that's not why he sells them.
'Some of these items are designed specifically to attract kids, like a pretty gemstone box which is actually a grinder for drugs.' —Brian Patterson, president of the Ontario Safety League
"You can use one in different ways," Saleem said, motioning up to a small yellow one that resembles a traditional hookah pipe for Shisha, a flavoured tobacco.
But a provincial advocacy group said it's "illegal and irresponsible" for shop owners like Saleem to be selling items like pipes, grinders or other "drug paraphernalia" at corner stores.
"Kids are confronted with displays of drug paraphernalia that is sold in colourful packaging and for discounted prices," said Brian Patterson, president of the Ontario Safety League. "What's even more despicable is some of these items are designed specifically to attract kids, like a pretty gemstone box which is actually a grinder for drugs."
The not-for-profit group said at a press conference at Queen's Park Monday its members easily purchased dozens of drug-related items at convenience stores in big and small cities across the province. They put those items on display at the conference.
"It's fairly common and some are designed with marijuana leaves," said Cst. John Barron with the Hamilton Police Vice and Drugs Unit. "[The items] can be used for other substances... some cultures use pipes to smoke herbs."
Barron agrees that these items "breed curiosity to try stuff they might not otherwise have tried" and doesn't personally like to see drug-related items in convenience stores. But its "not something [police] directly target."'
Legal uses could include smoking Shisha, flavoured tobacco or other tobacco-based or herb-based products.
Legal to sell
t is legal to sell these items, said police spokesperson Debbie McGreal. What's illegal in Ontario is selling them for the purpose of illegal drugs use, she said.
"Our main issue is public safety and education, parents talking to their kids, because this stuff can be purchased," McGreal said, who is a parent of a young boy who has asked her what the pipe is they once saw in a convenience store.
The Ontario Safety League launched an online petition 'Not at my store' to encourage Ontarians to report convenience stores that sell pipes along side their candy selection. The group is also encouraging Twitter users to tweet the name of a store selling drug-related items using the hashtag #reportmystore.
McGreal said in Hamilton if someone reports that a store is selling items like pipes and bongs and condoning illegal drug use, police will investigate.
Saleem said he doesn't sell many of the pipes he keeps on the top shelf behind the cash register and despite what he heard about the Ontario Safety League's stance Monday, said people looking to use drugs will do it regardless of available paraphernalia.
"They could manage another way," he said.