I have discovered that you have to be 27 years old to buy paper here in the ‘Land of the Free’
I went in to buy some rolling papers for the loose tobacco I have at home. I strolled up to the counter, greeted the clerk with a grin and said “good mornin.’ ”
Clerk: “What can I get for you?”
Me: “Do you have Zig-Zag one and a quarter rollin’ papers? I’ll take a couple books.”
Clerk: “Sure. ID please.”
Clerk: “I’m sorry, I can’t sell tobacco products to you if you don’t have photo ID.”
Me: “I don’t have it on me. Anyway, I just want the papers, not tobacco. Thanks.”
Clerk: “Sorry, we can’t sell any tobacco related products without ID.”
I was becoming a little exasperated at this point.
Me: “But it’s just paper.”
Clerk: “It’s a tobacco product. You need an ID.”
Me: “Do I really look underage to you?”
Right now I have a full beard, and am pushing 30. I can’t imagine anyone looking like me and being mistaken for 19 years old, which is the legal age to purchase tobacco where I live.
Clerk: “Well, you look younger than 27. So I still have to ask for your ID.”
Me: “Uh…ok. Why 27?”
Clerk: “That’s just our policy.”
Me: “Why not 21? Or at least an even number, like 25 or 30? What magical thing happens at 27? What does a 27-year-old look like?”
Clerk: “Uh…I don’t know sir…look I’m sorry, but that’s the law.”
Me: “Well, no, the actual law says 19 to purchase. And it also says you don’t have to ask me for ID unless you have suspicion that I am younger than 19. That’s it.”
Clerk: /stares blankly
Me: “Can’t you just be cool and ring me up? I’ve been coming to this store for years.”
Clerk: “I’m sorry.”
“Only in the U.S.” I thought to myself as I turned around and walked out.
Now before anyone suggests that it was only this particular store, or clerk, that had this policy, I will tell you that I’ve tested the various stores in my area.
Fred Meyer’s, Carr’s Safeway, Tesoro gas stations, Chevron gas stations; all of them apparently have this same policy. They will ID you for papers, and if you ask why, they will either say that “we ID everyone,” or “you look younger than 27.” I’ve also witnessed this happen with other customers, including customers who are white-haired and not a day younger than 60 or 70.
What the hell is going on?
There are several things going on. There are questions that any reasonable person would have:
- Since when did buying rolling papers become the same thing as buying tobacco?
- How could paper be a “controlled substance” or product?
- Why is the age threshold so high (27), and why are people blatantly above the threshold still ID’ed?
These questions are somewhat trivial in the end. The main things we should be asking ourselves are:
- Why does the government care if you buy tobacco?
- Why does the government care if you buy rolling papers?
Is it beyond the realm of possibility that a kid could be asked by his disabled grandpa to go pick some cigs up for him? Maybe the state is concerned that little Jimmy will just say he is buying them for grandpa, but he is actually going to go and smoke them himself; I’m sure that for some busy body types the mere thought is shuddering.
Funny enough however, the law doesn’t actually prohibit minors from smoking it just says it’s illegal to buy cigarettes. So if grandpa goes in with his walker and buys them for Jimmy, then little Jimmy can smoke anyway. So much for prohibition.
As I walk out of these stores, having questioned the clerks about the inane policies and farcical “law” they are enforcing (because apparently store clerks don’t just sell stuff to customers: they also fight against vice! Hail!),
I always notice the same dead pan, gaping stares. I have yet to get anyone behind me in line that says “Come on! Just sell the guy the damn paper!”
I’ve seen other customers become exasperated when they are in my position themselves, but in that immediate moment, the rest of the store glazes over and acts as if it all makes sense. The store employees may say “sorry,” but they almost never empathize or agree with you that the supposed law is nonsense.
If anything, they begin to defend the nonsense and start coming up with all of these “rational” theories of all the evil that would encapsulate the community if someone were to buy a packet of papers without a state-issued ID.
The law is defended as making sense simply because the state enforces the law, even when the “law” is at odds with its’ own statutory language. Instead of rolling on the floor laughing at the idea of being on the lookout for sneaky impostors disguising themselves as 27, the clerk takes it as a solemn duty, and executes his duty with a stone face.
The larger issue at play here is the institution of the State
I have had a couple of employees tell me that BATF (Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms) agents routinely visit the stores, and will send in minors to sting the store to catch them in the “evil” act of selling without asking for state IDs.
The State is supposedly a voluntary association to which we as citizens bind ourselves within a “social contract.” Aside from the fact that this social contract doesn’t actually exist in any meaningful way, at the end of the day any of these laws or policies could change if people simply said they had enough.
“If you don’t like it here, then move to North Korea!”
If instead of silent resignation to the stupidity of some store’s policy, people instead questioned and/or took their dollars elsewhere, then the policies would start changing very quickly. If instead of silent resignation to the politicians’ back-ass-ward legislation, people instead nullified the statutes, then the politicians would start realizing just as quickly that they are an emperor parading around with no clothes.
Until the decent and reasonable people of this (or any) country stand together, and say, like McMurphy: “I can’t take it no more,” then we will find our civil society trapped in the grip of the backward, mindless and depraved entity known as “State,” subject to the dictates of the busy-bodies, the paranoid and the control freaks who are drawn to the State because of its’ power to intrude into all of our lives.
It’s time to check ourselves out of the mental institution, and realize that society does not have to be this way.
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