As the Florida Legislature is finalizing the passage of a new law that would make it illegal for any retail store to sell bongs, smoking pipes or other paraphernalia that could potentially be used to ingest drugs; the Senate and House of Representatives are at the same time also about to change state law by instituting a program to provide free needles and hypodermic syringes to heroin addicts so they have a free, easy and clean way to inject their drugs. It seems too absurd to be true – but that’s how Florida politics plays-out.
Florida Statute 569.0073 currently allows retail tobacco dealers to sell smoking pipes and devices if they: “Derive at least 75 percent of their annual gross revenues from the retail sale of cigarettes, cigars, and other tobacco products; or Derive no more than 25 percent of their annual gross revenues from the retail sale of the smoking pipes and smoking devices.”
The Retail Sale of Smoking Devices Bills (HB049 & SB1150) will amend Florida state law to make it illegal to sell any metal, wooden, acrylic, glass, stone, plastic, or ceramic smoking pipes, Water pipes, Carburetion tubes, Chamber pipes, Carburetor pipes, Electric pipes, Air-driven pipes, Chillums, Bongs, Ice pipes or chillers – which all could be considered to be drug paraphernalia, but can also be used for other purposes, such as in the use of smoking tobacco or other legal weed, or substances.
Any person who violates the proposed new law will be found guilty of a first-degree misdemeanor for their first arrest and any subsequent violation is punishable as a felony, which carries a maximum sentence of 5 years in prison. Do Floridians really want to turn Florida retailers into convicted felons, just for selling a smoking pipe?What’s next? Maybe the Legislature will want to ban the sale of large sodas, or anything else that could be dangerous to our health – like shot glasses, beer mugs, wine carafes, etc…
Eighteen states and Washington D.C. have changed their state constitution to allow for the medical use and sale of cannabis, and voters in the states of Washington and Colorado have legalized pot for recreational use, entirely. Meanwhile, the Federal government still classifies marijuana as a dangerous “Schedule 1″ drug – the same classification as heroin and LSD, even though 81% of polled Florida residents said doctors should be able to recommend marijuana to patients without fear of arrest or loss of license.
Schedule I drugs are the most dangerous of all the DEA drug classifications and, by definition, are supposed to have “no currently accepted medical use”. The fact that so many states have legalized medicinal marijuana highlights the hypocrisy of the current drug laws. The Bill to ban smoking devices is sponsored by Democratic Representative Darryl Rouson of St. Petersburg. He is an admitted 15-year crack cocaine addict and alcoholic. His stated intention is to make it more difficult for pot smokers to get high, but by doing so he is forcing many Florida business to close down, which will add additional strain on Florida’s already fragile commercial real estate market, and overall economy. Strangely though, Rouson works for John Morgan, of Morgan and Morgan, who is a fierce advocate for the legalization of medical marijuana and who is backing a bill to be put on the 2014 legislative agenda for the legalization of marijuana for medicinal purposes. John Morgan’s father had suffered from painful and nauseating cancer and emphysema and only felt relief after smoking marijuana. Mr. Morgan’s brother who is a quadriplegic also finds relief and other benefits from smoking pot, which he found to be less addictive, less harmful an more soothing that other forms of prescribed pills or other approved medications. ”It made it possible for them to sit down and have a good meal,” Morgan said about his brother and father.
Florida’s tobacco stores and cigar shops have depended on the added revenues they generate from selling the myriad types of smoking devices, that are mainly manufactured for tobacco smokers, but since the smoking pipes could also be used to smoke non-tobacco weed, political profiteers have been using the marijuana issue to make a name for themselves and possibly a political career.
The ripple-down effect will be felt throughout Florida. Hundreds of Florida retail stores will close if the Bong Bills are approved, which will add more blight to already empty commercial strip-mall storefronts – which will also have a direct financial impact on the business owners and of their landlords and anyone else that might have received revenues from those individuals or entities. The spill over effect will cost Florida Governments millions in lost tax revenues and add additional burdens for law enforcement, which will have to expend funds and manpower to manage the enforcement of the new laws.
Passage of the Bong Bills would be irresponsible. It will cause many thousands of Florida residents, and visitors, to be arrested who will eventually loose their livelihood and ability to find employment once they are branded as a criminal or felon, if caught selling any one of the many devices that could be deemed paraphernalia if the Bong Bills are approved and included into state law.
The Bong Bills will make it unlawful for a store to sell anything considered to be “drug paraphernalia,” which are objects used, intended for use, or designed for use in ingesting, inhaling, or otherwise introducing cannabis or other substances into the human body. BUT the Legislature is also close to passing Senate Bill 808 which would allow for the creation of a program in which drug users can exchange used IV needles and syringes for clean ones. The drug needle exchange programs are currently illegal under Florida law. It seems absurd to outlaw smoking pipes while at the same time passing a law that creates a government sponsored program to pass-out free hypodermic needles and syringes to heroin addicts.
To confuse matters even more, the Legislature is also reviewing a Bill to allow Medical Marijuana to be prescribed to sufferers of certain ailments, but If the Bong Bill passes and Floridians are allowed to smoke marijuana, how will they be able to administer their medication?
The Medical Canibus Act (SB1250) authorizes “a qualifying patient to possess and administer medical cannabis, and possess and use paraphernalia for a specified purpose.”
The purpose of the Medical Canibus Act is to “make a distinction between the medical and non-medical use of cannabis and to protect patients who have qualifying medical conditions, their physicians, and their caregivers from arrest, criminal prosecution and property forfeiture.
The sponsor of the marijuana bill concludes, “Compassionate medicinal use of cannabis will also reduce state law enforcement costs, including, but not limited to, state prison costs, local jail costs, felony prosecution costs, court and probation costs, costs associated with felony and misdemeanor arrests, and alternative treatment costs by reducing the incidence of arrest and prosecution of nonviolent medicinal cannabis and traffickers in the state. The economic impact of this act is expected to create jobs, generate tax revenue, revitalize vacant farmlands, add to the sale of farming machinery and supplies, and generate occupancy of vacant commercial real estate.”
To receive medication, a doctor would be able to approve a prescription only under very strict conditions: “Qualifying medical conditions would be Cancer, AIDS, Epilepsy, Multiple Sclerosis, Muscular Dystrophy, Chronic debilitating pain, Parkinson’s disease, terminal illness,” and other serious ailments.
As the Florida Legislature wrangles with the three aforementioned contradictory state bills to legalize medical marijuana while also outlawing smoking pipes, and at the same time offering free needles to heroin addicts, the people who want or need to smoke weed but can’t find a pipe, bong or rolling papers after the Florida Legislature outlaws all smoking devices, can always resort to time-tested, proven and reliable home-made alternatives, like the honey-bear, apple core, tic-tac box…