In a move aimed directly at marijuana smokers and the vendors who supply them with their pipes and bongs, the Florida legislature has passed a bill that will make it illegal to sell drug paraphernalia in most head shops. The bong bill , HB 187, passed the Senate earlier and was approved unanimously in a House floor vote on Wednesday. It now awaits signature by Gov. Charlie Christ.
Violation of the law would be a misdemeanor. Offenders could face up to a year in jail. If signed by the governor, the law would go into effect on July 1.
Head shop owners tried to organize to fight back, even creating a web site, Kill Bill 187 , in a vain bid to block the bill. Jay Work, the owner of Grateful J's Grateful Deadhead Shop in Margate and a second shop in Boca Raton, led the fight.
"Shop owners, small-business owners are being thrown under the bus here," he told the Broward Palm Beach New Times . "They're saying that if I sell a $4,000 piece of art at my store, that I have to sell $12,000 worth of cigarettes. I'm not sure who that helps," Work says. "They're saying basically you can sell this stuff -- we're just going to make it really hard."
While drug paraphernalia is already illegal in Florida, pipes that could be used to smoke tobacco are legal to make, own, buy, and sell. They only become paraphernalia if they are used to do something illegal. But this bill attempts to circumvent the law with its restrictions on sales, Work said.
"The pipe itself is just a pipe," Work says. "The pipes I sell are harmless unless you take the pipe outside and beat someone over the head with it."
"I've been fighting the pipe industry for the longest, because it is all a part of the drug trade and the criminal enterprise that we know exists and destroys neighborhoods, families and order in our society," said sponsor Rep. Darryl Rouson (D-Tampa Bay) earlier this month. "When was the last time you stopped at a red light and saw someone smoking a hit of tobacco out of one of these one-shooters or water pipes?" he told NBC Miami .
Rouson, a self-described former crackhead, has gone after paraphernalia in the past, too. Last year, he proposed a bill that would have imposed an extra sales tax on smoking paraphernalia to pay for DARE programs that were facing cuts.
"Florida has a conscience and an awareness that marijuana and the smoking and ingesting of it is not healthy for an individual, nor is it healthy for public safety and the order in society," Rouson added.