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After 'Bong Ban' Watered Down, Smoke Shop Owners Say, It's Business As Usual

Jessica Palombo

A new Florida law taking effect today outlaws the sale of several kinds of drug paraphernalia, including smoking devices commonly referred to as bongs. But smoke shop owners say, the way the new law is phrased takes the teeth out of the legislation.

The sponsor of Florida’s so-called "bong ban" law, Rep. Daryl Rouson (D-St. Petersburg), has said he wants to put smoke shops out of business by outlawing the sale of pipes.

But Florida Smoke Shop Association founder Jay Work said, that’s not what the new law does. “I got calls this morning from employees: ‘Are we going to be OK today? Should we be worried? Are the police going to come?’ It’s business as usual. The media’s not helping though. The media’s not putting out the right information,” Work said.

Joaquin, who was working at Tallahassee’s Tobacco Leaf Smoke Shop on Monday and asked that we not use his last name, said, “Yeah, a lot of people think that we’re closing, but we’re not. They think we’re going to have some big sale and close. But it’s not going to affect us the way they think it is. ”

Work said, because of a lobbying effort by his group, by the time the bill reached the full Legislature, it had been watered down. The new law bans only the knowing and willful sale of items shopkeepers know will be used for drugs.  Work said, while that’s already the status quo, he admits the change has been enough to shut down a couple scared shop owners already.