In 1970, San Antonio native Jerry Shults opened a head shop called The Gas Pipe with half the money he’d saved during his voluntary Vietnam tour as a sergeant with the First Air Cavalry. Eleven years, four locations and several million dollars in gross sales later, Jerry Shults is still in the drug paraphernalia, or "tobacco accessories" business, despite the 3-month-old Texas law prohibiting the sale or possession of pipes, clips and spoons believed to be manufactured for use with controlled substancs.
Most other Dallas head shop owners are selling their remaining stock, hoping to stay in business somehow, and shaking their heads at Shults with mixed admiration and disbelief. Telestar head shop closed last January. Strawberry Fields Head World closed in October.
Shults says "organization" is what’s keeping him well in the black. The real catch, he admits, is that he calls himself a tobacco-accessories dealer and that he owns the property beneath his shop and leases it back to his own corporation. There’s no landlord to push him out, and if vice officers confiscate his merchandise again, Shults has enough money in the bank to restock immediately. Last year, his shop grossed $425,000 in sales; about $700,000 is expected this year, now that there’s less competition.
Shults says the officers participating in "Operation High Noon" last October confiscated about $8,000 worth of scales allegedly made for weighing illegal substances, and several thousand dollars in handcrafted pipes. The raid took about seven hours. "They kept having to make phone calls about which things they were supposed to leave and which things they should take," says Schults.
Hearings about the raid, and Shults’ subsequent arrest for having a pipe that was said to be tainted with a marijuana residue, are scheduled for later this month. Schults is also waiting to hear about the U.S. Fifth Circuit Court’s decision on the constitutionality of anti-drug paraphernalia ordinances based on the Drug Enforcement Agency’s model. The U.S. Supreme Court is soon to hear a similar case. Hand-lettered posters around The Gas Pipe are the only signs that Schults is feeling jeopardized. Above the telephone, a sign reads "Warning: Wiretapping is Legal." On a bulletin board above pertinent newspaper clips, is another sign: "Legal Update: Your rights are threatened too."