By Terrence McCoy
By Scott Fishman
By Deirdra Funcheon
By Allie Conti
By New Times Staff
By Ryan Pfeffer
By Deirdra Funcheon
By Kyle Swenson
Better be careful with those glass pieces, because if one state rep has his way, you won't be able to pick up a replacement anywhere in Florida. A new bill floating through the Legislature seeks to ban pipes and bongs from retail outlets.
The legislation was filed last December. Right now, it's floating through various subcommittees. But this isn't the first time the state has cracked down on smoking devices that may — possibly, if someone really wants, in an autonomous personal action completely outside the manufacturer's intentions and legal culpabilities — be used to smoke illegal drugs. In 2010, the state passed a bill that limited paraphernalia sales to stores that made 75 percent of their income from tobacco sales.
"The new bill builds on the old bill," says Darryl Rouson, the St. Petersburg representative sponsoring the House bill. "Rather than just regulating them, let's just ban them. If we can make people drive to Georgia and Alabama and South Carolina to get fireworks, they can drive to get these utensils of death."
If that phrasing didn't clue you in, Rouson is no friend of the paraphernalia trade. Admittedly, he's got a different perspective than most: Rouson was a crack addict before sobering up 15 years ago and today sees bongs and pipes not as good-time party favors but as implements of addiction. His campaign is all about ending the head-shop hypocrisy, as stores can sell the products with wink-wink, nudge-nudge approval as long as you just "use it for tobacco."
"When was the last time you pulled up to a red light and someone was smoking a wad of tobacco out of a colored glass one-shooter?" he asks New Times. "When was the last time you walked into someone's house and on the table was a water pipe they were smoking tobacco out of?"
(Answer: not yesterday.)
Rouson spearheaded the 2010 campaign. After that legislation was passed, a group of head-shop owners got together a legal challenge, hoping to sink the law by questioning its constitutionality. After a two-year back-and-forth, a judge in Tallahassee recently ruled on the state's behalf. Rouson took that as a green light to go forward with a proposed all-out ban. Incidentally, Rouson isn't an outsider in the Legislature — in February, he was elected leader of the House Democrats.
"I believe there is support for it," Rouson says.