Tonight, January 14th, was the Keep Norman Friendly event hosted at, and by, The Friendly Market. I had never been to this store. I knew of its existence from some neighbors that had some really rad tapestries hanging throughout their house. Upon visiting the store tonight, I see why they would shop there. It’s a store that displays and sells arts, crafts, incense, furniture and a variety of household and lifestyle needs. Unfortunately, my neighbors moved to Oregon last week and their tapestries have left my life for now.
I have also heard about The Friendly Market as a current event hot button news story. Apparently some law enforcement organizations under the guidance of the City of Norman have successfully completed premeditated and authorized raids on this business and seizing merchandise and cash.
The product in question here, and the cause of the attention from the local government is a tobacco pipe, specifically pipes made of glass. From the information I received tonight at the event from the various presenters, this pipe product is legal to sell to anyone over eighteen years old with proof of age in their possession, and that appears to be competent, and does not suggest or admit that the purchase of a pipe would facilitate the commission of a crime as set forth by the laws of jurisdiction.
Studies have shown that tobacco smoke filtered through a water pipe contains about 50% less carcinogenicity than smoke from a standard cigarette.
“This is not about the raid of the Friendly Market. This about what the community does to fix the problem that created the society that wants to raid The Friendly Market,” Attorney Blake Lynch said.
The Friendly Market is not the only business in Norman to be raided for identical suspicions. I have read at NewsOK.com that McCloud’z and Fatt Hedz were also raided multiple times and are now out of business. It is reported that these two retail businesses lost somewhere around 3,500 pieces of merchandise in the police raids, which I would conservatively estimate at about $50,000 to $100,000 worth of retail stock. It’s hard to imagine any small business can survive when faced with merchandise shrinkage of that scale.
The Norman Police Department is directly contributing to closing locally owned small businesses, decreasing local tax revenues, and the loss of legal property and cash.
McCloud’z was located on Main Street in downtown Norman. It was a dependable participant in the monthly Norman Arts Council’s Second Friday Artwalk. I frequented the establishment on many Artwalks. The location was a centralized storefront in my downtown experiences. They featured live glass blowing and promoted glass making classes held on site. They displayed and sold items very similar to The Friendly Market, such as: knitted goods, original and print art, lifestyle and recreation products… a variety of handy things.
McCloud’z was raided by the Norman Police Department for glass tobacco pipes and cash. Original works of functional art, thousands of one of a kind objects are now the property of the City of Norman, as well as cash and assets.
I was also led to believe that other cities in Oklahoma perform similar raids on local businesses on the suspicion of illegal activity, accompanied by searches and seizures. Generally, the business owner is charged with breaking the law.
The Friendly Market raids are unique. Not only was the owner charged, but also an employee was charged. I learned tonight that this is most unusual according to the history of glass pipe related raids in the state, this is the first time a person other than the owner has been charged.
“We don’t need the laws to change because no law was broken,” Stephen Holman, store employee, said addressing the crowd of forty or fifty people that filled the store.
As documented in a handout that I received, The Friendly Market has a focus on providing to the community: A ministry of peace and love.
“Our unbending intent is to continue offering Friendly Market as a place that spreads love and light to everyone who walks through our doors,” Robert Cox, store owner, said.
Contact Norman City Government, or District Attorney Mashburn’s office and let them know you support local business and The Friendly Market.
Contact Information for District Attorney Greg Mashburn
District 21: Cleveland, Garvin, and McClain counties of Oklahoma
office phone: 405-321-8268
address: 201 S. Jones Suite 300, Norman, OK 73071