Jun 24

Florida “Bong” Ban Law was Fixed By Smoke Shop Lobbyist

Instead of banning glass pipes, the Florida "bong" ban just strengthened existing laws about pipes sales for drug use.

Instead of banning glass pipes, the Florida “bong” ban just strengthened existing laws about pipes sales for drug use.

Although some are heralding the recent Florida “bong” ban as the most recent step in Florida’s ever-escalating war on (non-prescription) drugs,  most people see the recently passed law as a massive waste of taxpayer funds and lawmaker time. The new Florida “bong” ban, scheduled to take effect on July 1st, 2013, does not ban the sale of all glass pipes and non-traditional smoking accessories as it was initially intended to do.

Instead, it merely reiterates federal paraphernalia laws that make it a crime for retailers to knowingly sell a pipe or device that will be used for the consumption of any illegal drugs. The updated version of the law certainly not due to rational behavior on the part of lawmakers involved in the process. 

According to ABC News, the Republican now calling himself a Democrat that sponsored the bill isn’t happy at all that his unenforceable law didn’t pass in its original form.

“I’m disappointed in the ultimate outcome that passed out of the legislature and went to the governor,” said Democrat state Rep. Darryl Rouson, who wrote and sponsored the bill. “The original bill would have banned and prohibited the retail sale of pipes…Everybody accepts that the retailer knows what’s really being smoked out of bongs, water pipes, hash pipes and crack pipes, and it’s not tobacco,” Rousson said. “We may not be able to eradicate drug usage but we can certainly make it less convenient than walking across the street to a minimart, gas station or head shop.”

The 2013 bong ban marks the second concerted effort by Rousson to ban smoking accessories in the state of Florida. A previous attempt in 2010 restricted the sale of pipes and other smoking accessories to businesses whose income was at least 75% from tobacco sales.

(Jay) Work, a 51-year-old self-described “pipe peddler” owns four shops in Broward and Palm Beach County. He organized a group of store owners to fight the 2010 bill in the courts, but when he learned of the planned banned he knew he had to take action to stop it. ”I’m a pipe salesman, that’s it. This bill would have put me and 390 of the other 400 store owners out of business and lots of people out of work,” Work said. ”I don’t sell drugs, I don’t sell pipes to people who say they want to do drugs. If someone mentions the word bong, I kick them out of the store,” he said.

Work initially intended to fight the 2013 bill using the same methods that were ineffective in contesting the 2010 bill, but an attorney recommended that he hire a lobbyist. After forming the Florida Smoke Shop Association with other business owners, Work and other members of the group raised $100,000 to pay for a lobbyist to fight for the rights of the smoke shop industry in Florida.

In the end, the lobbyist approach proved faster and more effective that litigation; the bill was changed sufficiently while in the Senate. Although there is a strong possibility that Rousson and those with similarly short-sighted policies will try again to destroy this flourishing industry in Florida, now the Florida Smoke Shop Association will be there to intervene and protect business and consumer interests.


Source: ABC News