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Florida’s new bong bill is business as usual

Thanks to a last-minute amendment, smoke shop owners shouldn’t experience much blowback from new law

But smoke shop owners – known to be pretty reticent about discussing their businesses or rocking the boat when it comes to raising government ire – weren’t going to just let themselves be legislated out of business. Jay Work, owner of four Grateful J’s stores in South Florida, helped organize Florida smoke shop owners, vendors and glass blowers to form an organization called the Florida Smoke Shop Association. It quickly gained the support of more than 70 small businesses (including the four local Pipe Dreams shops, and Orlando stores Mystik and New Galaxy Gifts) that helped raise thousands of dollars to hire a lawyer and lobby against the state’s proposed anti-bong bill.

And here’s where the anticlimactic part of the story comes into play: Though when the bill first passed everyone from the Huffington Post to the Colbert Report noted that Florida had allegedly banned bongs, the Florida Smoke Shop Association’s work managed to squeeze in a single amendment that took the teeth out of the bill before it was signed by Gov. Rick Scott on June 5.

The amendment specifies that the sale of such products is only illegal if retailers sell “knowingly and willfully” for the purpose of illegal drug use – which is exactly the gray-area business model under which smoke shop owners have always operated. So business as usual, save for this costly hiccup?

“A lot of stuff hasn’t really changed with the new law,” Work says. That hasn’t stopped the hysteria, though: “I’m answering a ton of phone calls, text messages and Facebook messages from misinformed people,” he says. “The media is not helping. My mom called me this morning and told me the news was reporting that pipes were illegal.”

They’re not. Whew. Pass the Combos.

Florida Bong Bill

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