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Cottage Grove council delays tobacco license vote after shop's drug paraphernalia raid

The Cottage Grove City Council has delayed issuing a tobacco sales license to a smoke shop cited earlier this year for allegedly carrying more than 3,700 pieces of illegal drug paraphernalia.

Cottage Grove police seized glass pipes, water pipes, grinders and cocaine snifters -- items not legal for resale under city ordinance -- following a March inspection at the Cottage Grove Smoke Shop, formerly Smokes 4 Less, at 8461 East Point Douglas Rd.

Cottage Grove police issued the shop's former owner, Omar Wazwaz, 20, a misdemeanor citation following the inspection. But he has not been convicted, said Public Safety Director Craig Woolery. Nor is he listed as the shop's owner. Yassin Wazwaz is now listed on the store's tobacco license renewal application.

That, Woolery and the city attorney told council members, makes it difficult to deny a tobacco sales license without opening the city to a legal challenge from the shop's owners.

"We're treating them as separate issues," Woolery said of the paraphernalia seizure and pending tobacco license application. The Public Safety Department has recommended approval of the license renewal.

A split city council voted 3-2 on Wednesday, however, to table the application until a meeting next month, with some council members saying they wanted City Attorney Corrine Heine to further explore the city's options.

Council members Derrick Lehrke, Justin Olsen and Jen Peterson voted to table it. Dave Thiede and Mayor Myron Bailey voted against delaying a decision.