As Florida legislators bat around a proposed bill that would ban the sale the bong and glass smoking devices, head shop owners aren't loafing around while the business is legislated out from under them. An effort is cranking into high gear to challenge the proposal on the hill before it hits the revised code.
Running point on the effort is Jay Work, the owner of the four Grateful J's Grateful Deadhead shops spread around Broward and Palm Beach counties. Basically, for the businessman, it's all déjà vu.
In 2010, as Rep. Darryl Rouson pushed through a bill that sought to limit bong and pipe sales to stores that did 75 percent of their sales from tobacco, Work went on the defensive. He organized 32 head shops in a class-action lawsuit against the law. That case was finally decided in the state's favor last October, prompting Rouson to move forward with the more hard-core ban.
"This is one man's vendetta," Work tells New Times. "He made a law, he got it approved, and then he decided his wasn't good enough." Work explains that after the last suit was settled, he never expected to face off again against an effort to police his business. In fact, he opened more Grateful J stores in the wake of the 2010 action, figuring that law at least clarified the legal position of smoking devices.
Once again, Work has put out a Bat signal to people who could be see their business and livelihood hurt. He's organizing a formal association of interested parties. Both shop owners and artisans are invited to join "if they are willing to put up money to defend our right to sell what we sell," Work says.
"We have retailers and interested parties across Florida who have been contributing to the fight here," adds Tim Dandar, Work's attorney. The organized head shop owners have also hired a Tallahassee lobbyist named Albert Balido to explain their position to legislators. If that doesn't work and Rouson's bill becomes law, the group will again go to the courts to fight the action.
Dandar is mum on what form the legal action will take at this point -- they're waiting to see how the final bill is amended. But if the bong ban does pass, bet on a challenge.