On the Eve of the Florida Bong Ban, Local Head Shops Hang Loose | New Times Broward-Palm Beach


On the Eve of the Florida Bong Ban, Local Head Shops Hang Loose

After months of public debate, legislation, a lawsuit, and the outgoing governor's stamp of approval, the Florida ban on bong sales takes effect tomorrow. So you'd guess every head shop in the state would be having huge blowout sales today, right?

Not so much. It seems the smoke hasn't completely cleared yet (sorry), and plenty of local head-shop owners feel the issue hasn't been settled. Some are changing nothing, keeping their heads down, and hoping for the best. Others are getting a little paranoid.

When asked if he was having any sales today and if he would continue to sell water pipes tomorrow, the owner of a Palm Beach smoke shop, replied, "How do I know you don't work for the sheriff?"

A representative from Peace Pipe in Oakland Park said the store is undergoing renovations right now, and the future is still up the air. "We'll still be around," she said.

The owner of a smoke shop in Pompano Beach said he wasn't going to change anything. "I'm already in compliance with the new law," he said. "So I'll continue to be in compliance." When asked if 75 percent of his total sales come from tobacco -- as the new law dictates -- he repeated, "I'm in compliance."

Jay Work, owner of Grateful J's Deadhead Shop, with locations in Margate and Boca Raton, says he's not worried about the new law. He said nothing will change tomorrow at either of his locations. Work, along with about 20 other shop owners around the state, is part of a class-action law suit seeking to overturn the ban on constitutional grounds.

"Basically, the law is written so badly, we feel it's essentially unenforceable," Work said. "To come in, [law enforcement] needs a search warrant. To get a search warrant, they have to have a reason to believe you're breaking the law. The way this law is written, the only way to know if we're breaking it would be to look at our books. And the only way they're going to see our books is with a search warrant."

Technically, the new law doesn't ban the sale of water pipes outright. The only businesses allowed to sell these legal-to-own pipes will be stores where the sale of tobacco products constitutes 75 percent of the gross income or shops where the sale of smoking accessories accounts for less than 25 percent of the total take.

So a head shop can't legally sell a bong (even it were used only for tobacco) unless it sells a lot of cigarettes (otherwise it could be a public health dilemma), but a gas station can sell as many as it wants as long as the total amounts to less than a quarter of its gross sales.

Either way, if you think you're going out tonight to find a bunch of bongs on clearance, you must be high.