HATTIESBURG, MS (WDAM) - James Moore said he walked to a gas station on Hardy Street one afternoon while working at an animal clinic nearby. That's when he was shocked to see what was also on sale inside.
"I found myself face to face with a glass case full of pipes, synthetic urine, concoctions promising to help you fool a drug test," Moore said. "Things that are clearly intended for one purpose and one purpose only."
Moore said he knew what those items were use for, because he had seen them before. Moore's son passed away in 2015 after overdosing on heroin.
"Having found these things in my son's bedroom from the time he was 12-years-old and having dealt with a youngster growing up through the difficulties of addiction," Moore said. "Knowing there are people in our community allowed to profit off the misery and suffering of those with this disease — I was angry."
After the concern at the one shop, Moore embarked on a personal investigation around the city. He found twelve gas stations and convenience stores selling things like pipes, bongs, marijuana grinders and more.
"They're doing so near the candy aisles, they're doing so up near the register," Moore said. "It sends a very conflicting message when you tell the kids just to say no, but as a community we have not yet said no to these retailers."
The sale of items has been discussed by Pine Belt law enforcement agencies from Jones to Forrest County. Police said legally, those bongs or pipes can be sold at any store.
"In order for it to be illegal, it has to be the presence of drugs associated with the item," said Lt. Latosha Myers-Mitchell with the Hattiesburg Police Department.
According to law enforcement, those items do not become drug paraphernalia, or a possible offense, until it is stated of intended use for drugs or there are drugs present.
Moore gathered photos, items, and put together a sideshow to show his concerns at Hattiesburg City Hall Monday evening. He showed Mayor Toby Barker and council members what is being sold at stores and where those are located. Several are just down the road or around the corner from Hattiesburg elementary, middle or high schools.
Council member Mary Dryden said she was shocked to see and hear about some of the items being sold.
"I had not been in the stores to see all of that myself," Dryden said. "The idea that we are enticing children and youth to buy drug paraphernalia is very disturbing to me."
Moore asked city leaders to consider a new ordinance that would prohibit the sale of any item that could be classified as drug paraphernalia.
"There are several cities and communities that have passed ordinances that can effectively shut down the sale of the items," Moore told council members. "You can stop the selling of these items in your community and that's what we must do."
Dryden said she would be on board with implementing an ordinance to crack down on drug use.
"We can't control the decisions that adults make, but we really need to protect our children if we can and not give them misleading messages by having those things present," Dryden said.
"I've learned, speaking to people in recovery, that triggers can send you from recovery back into addiction at a moments notice," Moore said. "Many people who see a crack pipe at the check out stand while they are buying milk for their kid, may not be having the best day and something like that could be enough to send them over the edge. There is no place for that in this community."