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Head shop owners don't like Florida's new 'bong bill'

TAMPA — A state law that makes it a crime to sell smoking devices such as pipes and bongs at most head shops takes effect Thursday.

And that has some of the shop owners fuming.

So much so that 26 of the specialty retail stores across the state have filed a lawsuit in Hillsborough County to stop the law, calling it unconstitutional.

The law "singles out a specific type of retail business, and criminalizes the owners," the lawsuit filed on June 18 said.

Beginning Thursday, stores may sell bongs and pipes only if they have a state license to sell tobacco and derive 75 percent of their annual revenue from tobacco products, or no more than 25 percent from the smoking devices.

According to the law, smoking devices include any metal, wooden, acrylic, glass, stone, plastic or ceramic smoking pipes, water pipes or bongs.

For Rep. Darryl Rouson, the St. Petersburg Democrat who sponsored the so-called bong bill, the law reveals the truth behind a charade going on for years.

"Everyone knows what's being smoked out of these pipes; the only ones who claim they don't know are the sellers of these pipes," he said. "The law just tries to chip away at what we know is a facade."

The lawsuit, filed against the state by businesses including G-Spot III in Tampa and Mellow Mood in Pinellas Park, also says the law is problematic in its approach to determining which businesses can legally sell the smoking devices in such a short time frame.

The law "cannot be validly enforced because there is no provision for any method to determine" the percentage of sales or the annual revenue made through the sales of tobacco products or smoking devices, the lawsuit said.

The lawsuit suggests an effective date of July 1, 2011, instead.

An attorney for the businesses could not be reached Monday.

Shelley Rossetter can be reached at (863) 226-3374 or srossetter@sptimes.com.

Head shop owners don't like Florida's new 'bong bill' 06/28/10 [Last modified: Monday, June 28, 2010 11:24pm]
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