Last month, the so-called “Bong Bill” was passed unanimously in the Florida House of Representatives.
Taking effect July 1, affected business leaders have already filed a lawsuit in Hillsborough County Court to delay its enforcement.
While the ban may gain its sponsor, Rep. Darryl Rousen of St. Petersburg, and other politicians more votes without having to spend state funds, it will also put numerous small business owners out of work in a downtrodden economy for no reason.
The bill affects the sale of bongs, water pipes, chamber pipes, electric pipes, air-driven pipes, chillums and ice-pipes.
A business could only sell the pipes if 75 percent of its revenue was from tobacco and the pipes generated less than 25 percent of its revenue. Violations are punishable by up to one year in prison.
“Everyone knows what’s being smoked out of these pipes; the only ones who claim they don’t know are the sellers of these pipes,” said Rousen, referring to marijuana and other drug use associated with the pipes.
“The law just tries to chip away at what we know is a facade,” he said.
Banning the sale of this one particular item will have no impact on drug use. Drug-users still have an infinite number of ways to smoke and will continue to do so despite the ban.
The only consequence of the bill is the criminalization and jailing of otherwise legal, productive and tax-paying citizens who often vehemently oppose the use of the word “bong” in their stores in favor of “pipe.”
Practically everything associated with drug use, beyond the drugs, is legal. Cigars, rolling-papers, ashtrays, lighters and basically anything used for legal tobacco smoking can be used illegally.
“Pipes are provided for people for sanitary reasons. If you take the sale of pipes away, then they will find something to smoke out of. They’ll make it out of the house and use unsanitary items, Brian Lucazaj, owner of “Condom Knowledge” said to the Cannabis Culture Magazine.
In fact, a car used to drive to a dealer and a bottle of water used to swallow illegal prescriptions are among a number of items that could be used to facilitate drug use.
This legislation is a return to the same tired and chauvinistic anti-drug mentality that uses punishment and force to combat problems associated with drug abuse.
Legislators should act progressively and consider taxing and regulating certain controlled substances, which may spell the end of violent drug cartels – much like repealing the 18th Amendment eventually spelled the end to organized crime that arose from bootlegging – and offer rehabilitation to drug addicts instead of stuffing them into already overcrowded jails.
But with unanimous legislative support behind the “Bong Bill,” a more reasonable approach seems highly unlikely in Florida.
Justin Rivera is a senior majoring in history.