Controversy surrounds Bismarck tobacco shops

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One local business owner was taken into custody after a raid was executed on his property last month. He now faces multiple charges of unlawful manufacturing or delivery of drug paraphernalia. Shelby Rose digs into the story and what Bismarck PD says they did wrong. 

Tokes R Us is a business that sells items like glass pipes, water pipes, and other smoking devices. Detectives claim that the sale of their products was intended for marijuana, not tobacco use like their business license allows. There are multiple shops like Tokes R Us around Bismarck, so I reached out to a few of them. One owner sides with Bismack PD, saying they were just doing their job.

Knock-Ootz owner Nicholas Olson said, I don’t in any way see them as doing something wrong or targeting Tokes R Us. I believe if he was doing what he was supposed to be doing, even when they would’ve came in there, they would have come in, did their search, and they would have left.”

Knock-Ootz has been in buisness for almost 2 years now. Olson prides himself in following North Dakota’s century code so his business stays legal, especially when it comes to launguage used inside the store. He says people get kicked out regularly for using terms they shouldn’t.

“When somebody comes in, and they use that term, hey can I see that bong? That is a drug paraphenerlia term, in meaning hey, I can’t even do business with you anymore. I actually have to ask you to leave because you’re associated with drug paraphenerlia,” said Olson.

However, the Bismarck PD says taking these steps may not be enough.

Detective Jerry Stein says, “The language in of itself does not limit a store, protect a store from prosecution.”

He says many of these businesses around Bismarck sell glass pipes. They are most commonly associated with marijuana, not tobacco.

But Olson claims he’s not breaking the law by selling them. There are signs like this posted around the store, as well as his tobacco license displayed right at the entrance. 

“We sell tobacco products,” said Olson.

But Bismarck PD isn’t buying it. Saying it’s possible to crack down on any shop selling these items.

Detective Stein added, “If a store in the Bismarck area is selling a glass pipe or other type of smoking device that’s similar or appears to be for the use of consumption of controlled substances, then that store would open themself up to prosecution.”

So far, Tokes R Us is the only store Bismarck Police have raided this year. I did reach out, but at the advice of their attorney, they declined to comment

The owner faces up to 13 years in prison if convicted of the crimes.

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