Bill targeting sale of marijuana 'bongs' approved by Florida Legislature

Associated PressApril 28, 2013 

TALLAHASSEE -- A Florida lawmaker who once struggled with his own drug addiction is hoping to curtail the sale of marijuana pipes known as "bongs" through a bill that cleared the Legislature on Friday.

But Rep. Rep. DarrylRouson acknowledges that changes made to his legislation raise questions about whether the bill, if it becomes law, would be effective in removing those pipes from store shelves in the Sunshine State.

State legislators wrapped up work on the measure(HB 49) when the Senate passed it on a 31-2 vote Friday.

The bill, which cleared the House earlier in the session, now goes to Gov. Rick Scott for his consideration.

The measure would make it illegal for shops to "knowingly and willfully" sell the pipes for use to consume illegal drugs.

One question, however, is whether the final language in the bill would allow the devices to still be sold if the expressed purpose was to smoke tobacco.

"There's some that would argue that," Rouson said in an interview Friday.

Rouson, D-St. Petersburg, said he was "cautiously optimistic" that the bill, with its threat of jail time for violations, would create a "chilling factor" among retailers that spurs them to remove the pipes -- which he calls "utensils of death and destruction."

The pipes are sold at a few hundred stores across Florida and tend to cluster close to college campuses, he said.

Even if the bill effectively removes the pipes from store shelves, it's only a small advance in the larger fight against illegal drug use, he said.

"I'm not under any illusion that this eradicates drug abuse, but I certainly believe that it makes it less convenient to get tools of abuse as near as the street corner," he said.

First-time offenders would be guilty of a first-degree misdemeanor. Second and subsequent violations would jump to a third-degree felony.

Sen. Kelli Stargel, who sponsored a companion Senate bill, said she was hopeful that retailers selling the pipes would take a hit from law enforcement.

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