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Heading off 'head shops'

Most Americans will never come into contact with ''roach clips,'' vials, scales, and rolling papers, except perhaps by way of an occasional newspaper story or television broadcast. Yet these paraphernalia have become part of a $1 .5 billion-a-year drug-accessory industry and can be found in many ''head shops'' -- or drug-related equipment stores - located throughout the US. Now, in a ruling that must be seen as a significant support for communities grappling with the drug problem, the US Supreme Court this week upheld the right of state and local governments to regulate head shops.

The court, in an 8-to-0 decision, upheld an ordinance adopted by Hoffman Estates, Ill., that prohibits the sale of drug-related devices to minors and requires merchants to obtain a license. It also requires that records of sales to adults be available for police inspection. The ordinance is believed to be similar to most state and local laws either restricting or banning head shops.

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Legal experts appear uncertain as to the constitutionality of laws -- such as those adopted by the states of New York, Massachusetts, New Jersey, and Connecticut -- that not only regulate but totally prohibit sales of drug paraphernalia. A case involving a ban is now before the high court.

Perhaps it was only fitting that the high court's ruling appeared on the same day as the broadcast of ''Desperate Lives,'' a CBS-TV movie depicting what can happen to young people caught up in the drug culture. As the film dramatically showed, drug usage can be combated when individuals in a community become aroused enough to want to do something about it. For that reason, the Hoffman Estates ruling is a much-needed boost for individuals, states, and communities seeking to control the nefarious drug trade.

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