Smoke Shops Strike Back at Bong Bill

Lawsuit filed to have Florida law against paraphernalia quashed

View Comments ()
|
Email
|
Print

    NEWSLETTERS

    Getty Images
    SAN FRANCISCO - APRIL 20: A marijuana user smokes from a bong during a 420 Day celebration on "Hippie Hill" in Golden Gate Park April 20, 2010 in San Francisco, California. April 20th has become a de facto holiday for marijuana advocates, with large gatherings and 'smoke outs' in many parts of the United States. Voters in California will consider a measure on the November general election ballot that could make the State the first in the nation to legalize the growing of a limited amount of marijuana for private use. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

    It's time to fight for the right to sell pipes.

    So say a group of Florida smoke shop owners who are now suing to quash the state's "Bong Bill" which makes it illegal to the shops to make more than 25 percent of revenue from the sale of bongs, pipes and other smoking paraphernalia.

    Thirty shops have joined in the litigation against the law, which took effect July 1. They claim it's not only hurting business, it's also hurting tax revenues.

    "This act is a dismal failure," Clearwater lawyer Luke Lirot, who represents the stores, told the Sun-Sentinel. "You can't have these shop owners held responsible for the intent of someone else."

    While just a misdemeanor, violators of the law could face up to a year in jail.

    The smoke shop owners argue that the bongs aren't even used for smoking in some instances, and are instead used as decoration.

    But supporters of the bill, including St. Petersburg Rep. Darryl Rouson, who sponsored it, says it's a "charade" for the owners to claim the paraphernalia isn't used for drugs.

    Rouson, a former drug user himself, said he's trying to fight what he views as rampant drug use in the state. He said the shops need to sell tobacco if they're going to call them tobacco shops.

    "I used to brag, 'Take me to any city in America and I'll take you to the head shop and get a nice pipe to smoke,'" he said. "The law allows them to call themselves tobacco shops, yet 80 percent of them don't sell a stick of tobacco."

    Shop owners like Jay Work, of Grateful J's in Margate, say the law is one toke over the line.

    "The way the whole thing is written is unconstitutional," Work told the Sun-Sentinel. "There's no business in the country that has a cap on how much you can sell. It's like telling Pfizer that no more than 25 percent of your income can come from Viagra because it's sex-related."