Florida Governor Rick Scott, who has recently passed a string of controversial laws, continues to raise eyebrows and questions with the passing of new legislation that imposes stiff penalties for those who sell marijuana paraphernalia and smoking devices. Dubbed the "Bong Ban," House Bill 49 is a law designed to prohibit the sale of pipes commonly used for smoking marijuana. Under HB 49, any retail store – such as a head shop – will be prohibited from "knowingly and willfully" selling drug paraphernalia. The law also explicitly states that the sale of pipes made primarily of briar, meerschaum, clay, or corn cob will not be impacted.
Although the controversial Bong Ban is set to take effect on July 1, holes have already been riddled through the legislation. As marijuana advocacy continues to grow throughout the United States, laws such as Governor Scott's Bong Ban have been viewed as everything from draconian and archaic to counterproductive, counterintuitive, a waste of money, and – most significantly – a likely failure.
The idea behind HB 49, as stated by the bill's author Rep. Darryl Rouson of St. Petersburg, is not to take a direct approach to eradicating marijuana use, but to "make it less convenient." The problem, however, is that the law is viewed by many to be ineffectual and, at worst, a source of more harm and problems than good. First, Florida head shop owners and retail proprietors of smoking devices already market their products exclusively for the use of tobacco.
The law states that penalties will only be enforced when a retailer "knowingly and willfully" sells a pipe or smoking devices for drug use. A first offense will be prosecuted as a misdemeanor, while a second can result in third-degree felony allegations. The hitch, however, comes with the fact that retailers and employees have to know, without a doubt, that a consumer is purchasing a pipe for drug use. Smoking devices for tobacco use are still legal to sell.
In addition to this gaping hole, many advocates, organizations, and community members have voiced concern over the costs and energy expended in enforcing an ineffectual law. While many do not believe that the bill will have much of an impact on head shops and the ways in which they conduct business, there is concern that the Bong Ban can lead to increased arrests for minor offenses, thereby increasing jail and prison bed population in an already overcrowded system. The vague law also fails to address the sale of smoking devices through the internet or mail order retailers.
Marijuana Laws, Criminal Charges & Your Rights
While there is much to say about the passing of Florida's new Bong Ban, much can be summarized in saying that it falls in line with the tremendous confliction of views and laws surrounding marijuana use. As other states in the nation are passing medical marijuana initiatives and legalizing marijuana entirely – such as in Colorado and Washington – Florida's laws seem counterintuitive and, being so vague and purportedly ineffectual – a waste of money and legislative efforts.
There is a lot of noise, inefficacy, costs, distractions, and arguments tied up in America's marijuana movement and opposition and it seems that with each step taken toward progress and legalization, one or two steps are taken backward. Whatever the case may be, and whatever new laws crop up here and there, the fact remains that marijuana is illegal under federal law. In Florida, possession of 20 grams of marijuana or less is a criminal misdemeanor punishable by up to a $1,000 fine, a possible driver's license suspension, and up to one year imprisonment. Possession of more than 20 grams is a felony punishable by up to $5,000 in fines, up to five years imprisonment, or both. Harsh penalties are also enforced for cultivating marijuana, possessing concentrates such as hash, and possessing paraphernalia.
Despite all the news, all the advocacy efforts, and the small strides toward progress in marijuana legislation, anyone who stands accused of a marijuana drug crime must be aware that they face these serious penalties now. By feeling a sense of urgency, those who stand accused of a marijuana offense can take the steps needed to protect their rights, their freedoms, and their futures by seeking legal representation from proven Miami criminal defense attorneys. If you or your loved one has been charged with a marijuana related crime, please do not hesitate to contact Parks & Braxton, PA for the support and representation you need.