The best feedback to a recent column I wrote on drugs came from a reader in the North Hills of Pittsburgh. Happy that I spotlighted some fatal missteps in the war on drugs, and surmising that I’m some pothead who can’t keep his hands off hash, he e-mailed a few good shopping tips on the internet ?, and

The big deal on is “The Urinator,” “a fully self-contained” and “thermostatically-controlled state-of-the-art electronic device that uses two 9-volt batteries” to mix water “in the right temperature range” with a “laboratory clean concentrated urine to provide the test facility with a clean toxin-free sample.” I think one of my former employees, eager to suggest urine testing, had one of these.

The directions? “Turn switch to ON position and conceal The Urinator. In testing facility, undo clasp, open top of dehydrated urine container. Allow fluid to pour into testing cup. Turn in sample and leave.”

The Urinator, says the producer, “does what no other product can: protects its user, no matter what their intake.” And it’s cost effective: “This product can be used literally hundreds of times ? even shared with others.” And little: “It’s small, easy to conceal size will keep you prepared for the random or pre-employment urine tests that are becoming so common today.”

For $149.95, here’s what you get: “Toxin-free concentrated urine; electronically controlled heater; testing strips; calibrated bottle-filling device; soft, flexible folding pouch; a blanket guarantee on testing outcomes; discreet packaging and shipment.” Who wants the mailman to see you’re a big buyer of concentrated urine in plain brown wrappers?

And there’s a refill deal: “Drug-Free Concentrated Urine, $34.95, guaranteed to beat any of the urine tests. Just add warm water!” Plus a test-beating system that’s cheaper and less high-tech, without all the heaters and batteries: “Bake-N-Shake … A revolutionary new product which removes toxins from a urine sample. The toxins remain in the bag and are discarded when the users throw the bag away. $32.” Remember when it was just Iron City and the Bake-N-Shake was for the chicken?

And if the boss gets tricky and starts pulling out your hair instead of his own, there’s a test-busting shampoo, better than Prell: “Clear Choice Shampoo … Rid your Hair of Toxins with Clear Choice Shampoo. Removes all residues and toxins within 10 minutes. $35.”

At, it’s stuff for the home, like the Tanita 1479, the “all-time favorite” scale with “feather touch sensitivity and an accuracy of 0.1 grams,” and a big selection of “Color-Changing Glass Pipes,” all the way up to “8-inch tall multi-bubblers,” each one “specially handcrafted and individually blown.” The good part, for those bored with TV? “As the pipe is being used, the colors change.” And for the kitchen wall, a nice “Hemp Leaf Clock,” $16.95. And what to wear while all this is going on? A “Black Poncho with White Marijuana Leaf on back,” $19.95.

Says Mother Earth Shop, Bongs and Waterpipes: “All our products are intended for tobacco use only.” What, the Tanita scale with “feather touch sensitivity” is for all those folks who weigh their Marlboros?

And at, everything’s made easy: Visa, MasterCard, American Express, Discover, two-day express delivery, and “Gift Certificates, Bridal Registry, and Gift Wrapping Too.” For the happy bride who needs a happy pipe? The “Bad Mushroom Pipe,” $150, and, higher up, a selection of “Signed Artist Pieces,” like the “Wicked Sidecar,” by Shana, $300.

Well, sorry to disappoint my e-mailer, but the straight dope is that I don’t own a bong pipe and don’t monkey around with anything more potent than a couple of chardonnays at lunch. That’s it ? zero crack, no smack, no Grateful Dead bumper stickers, no snorting, toking, shooting, whippets or popping, no pipe dreams, and no getting fit-shaced from glue.

My argument isn’t pro-drug, but a call for some common sense and fine tuning in the war on drugs. Jacob Sullum, senior editor at Reason magazine makes the point: “In the case of alcohol, people routinely make such distinctions. They see a difference between responsible and irresponsible use, between moderate drinkers and alcoholics. The same sorts of distinctions can and should be applied to other drugs, whatever their current legal status.”

That distinction isn’t being made with marijuana, says Sullum. First, some 76 million Americans have tried marijuana, according to the National Household Survey on Drug Abuse ? more than one-third of the population over the age of 12. Second, the government’s own data show that people who use marijuana typically do so in moderation and don’t move on to harder drugs. Third, studies show that fewer than one-tenth of marijuana users have ever experienced “drug dependence.” The comparable figure for alcohol is 15 percent. And, fourth, marijuana ? the main target of the war on drugs ? accounts for more than 500,000 arrests per year, nearly 90 percent for simple possession, not dealing.

The result? It took over 200 years for America to hold one million prisoners all at once. Now we’ve managed to incarcerate the second million in only the last 10 years, with at least 450,000 behind bars for non-violent drug offenses, all while the nation’s treatment programs are being shortchanged in order to build more jails.

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