Rolling papers, pipes and hookahs can now only be sold at O'Fallon businesses catering specifically to tobacco users, although the city doesn't currently have such a tobacco business.
The voted 7-2 to approve an ordinance creating new regulations for the sale of tobacco paraphernalia in the city, but not before some heated discussion at Thursday night’s meeting.
The ordinance, sponsored by Mayor Bill Hennessy, limits the sale of items such as rolling papers, pipes and hookahs, to businesses that cater specifically to tobacco users.
Tobacco paraphernalia includes, but is not limited to: rolling papers; metal, wooden, acrylic, glass, stone, plastic or ceramic pipes; water pipes; hookahs; carburation tubes and devices and bongs, as defined in the ordinance.
Councilman Says Bill Targets Specific Business
Pepper said the bill is targeting a specific business owner, Gary Grafeman, the owner of several Retro Active stores in St. Peters, Troy, Florissant and Columbia. Grafeman opened up an office off of Mexico Road, which is not a retail store. Grafeman said at the last council meeting that the ordinance would affect his business.
Grafeman's colorful van, which has images of hookah's on it, sparked the discussion, Pepper said. He shared photos with the council of the van.
Pepper said the next thing he knew, the city had an ordinance trying to ban this man from doing business in the City of O’Fallon, because of a specific product. He said the ordinance has no place at this point and it could be taken care of under zoning land use issues or by placing age limit for entering these types of shops.
“In my opinion, this ordinance is a knee-jerk reaction reminiscent of Bible toting thumpers in small towns that want to basically outlaw dancing,” he said.
Bill Won't Impact Grafeman's Business, Mayor Says
Hennessy said the business owner that Pepper referred to has a business license to store and operate at this location and would not be affected by the ordinance.
“What does this ordinance have anything to do with this gentleman and his place of business?” he asked Pepper.
Hennessy said he’d stand behind the ordinance.
“I can tell you sir, I don’t want to see bongs, I don’t want to see bath salts, or anything sold in the city limits of O’Fallon,” Hennesy said.
Pepper said the way the ordinance is written, it does not address bath salts—but items like pipes and rolling papers.
“They (tobacco paraphernalia) can always be sold in a tobacco store, yet there is no tobacco store in O’Fallon so it’s an effective ban on standard good old-fashioned pipes,” he said.
During the discussion, Ward 5 Councilman Michael Snowden asked City Attorney Kevin O’Keefe why the ordinance was drafted and if it targeted any specific O'Fallon businesses.
“The ordinance doesn’t have to do with any particular business. The ordinance was written in consequent as a follow up to a measure passed by voters, which defined the tobacco products based on issues that they had seen,” he said.
Pepper said the ordinance could affect some local businesses that sell products like pipes and rolling papers in the city, although the products are not a major portion of their business.
“But are you going to tell someone that they can’t sell something legal?” he asked. “How far does this go in the slippery slope concept, is all I’m asking,”
After the discussion, the new tobacco paraphernalia regulations passed with a 7-2 vote. Voting for the ordinance were, Bill Gardner and Rick Lucas, of Ward 1; Rose Mack, of Ward 2; Jeff Schwentker and Bob Howell of Ward 4 and Mike Pheney and Michael Snowden of Ward 5.
Ward 3 Councilman John Haman, Jr. and Pepper voted no. Ward 3 Councilman Rick Battelle was absent.