Blowing smoke 

There were four pipes and one bong on the County Courthouse’s picnic table when the paraphernalia protest began, and just enough people to put them all to use.

But the five souls who did show up for Tuesday’s lunchtime protest, held in response to David Sil’s recent federal conviction for selling paraphernalia at The Vault in Missoula, smoked their fragrant chamomile blossoms (calming), mullen (supposedly lung-clearing) and tobacco (duh) in peace. Given that the organizers who plastered yellow posters around town announcing the “event” didn’t even show up, there was a bit of confusion, though that was settled after smoking a few bowls and migrating to light up again at the federal courthouse where, again, there were no other protesters, no official response, and only a few puzzled looks from passersby.

While most of the protesters showed up to assert their rights to smoke legal substances out of pipes and share their frustration with the recent decision, one attendee was more intimately affected. The glassblower—let’s call him Steve since he wouldn’t give his name—used to earn half his income selling pipes to local stores. But the day Sil was convicted, owners at Ear Candy Music and Authentic Creations pulled their glassware off the shelves for fear they might be next. The Down Under and Zootown Glass, whose owners declined to comment for this story, still sell pipes.

Steve, who lives with three other glassblowers, says he and other local glassblowers have been affected, because though he also creates jewelry, bowls and wine glasses, there’s more consistent demand for pipes.

“My job is to melt glass and shape it how people want it,” he says, adding that he doesn’t particularly care—nor should he have to—how they choose to use it.

Steve brought three freshly blown pipes to the protest, though he wryly calls them “sculptures.”

“It’s a representation of a pipe in a time when pipes were legal,” he jokes.

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