Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Bong ban aims to smoke out head shops

One month ago, a state law went into effect that prohibits him from selling water pipes, air pipes and hookahs. The state now classifies those items as ``drug paraphernalia.''

Head shop owner Jay Work calls them ``art.''

``This is a $3,800 pipe,'' says Work, owner of Grateful J's Dead Head Shop, pointing to a four-foot-tall glass structure anchored by something that looks like a mix between a rose and a brain. ``You could put this in your dining room, next to a van Gogh painting.''

As of July 1, Florida law makes it a first-degree misdemeanor for a store to sell paraphernalia if 75 percent of a tobacco store's annual profits don't come from the sale of tobacco. No more than 25 percent of profits can come from drug paraphernalia -- a list that includes water pipes, hand pipes, hookahs, punctured metal bowls and chillers.

After failing to persuade the Legislature that the new law is unfair, Work and 29 other owners of small head shops have sued to keep the state from banning the bong. Going to court is the only way to prevent their niche businesses, which typically sell small amounts of tobacco, from going under, Work says.

``This is what happened with porn,'' Work says. ``They put in so many regulations that the small adult stores couldn't survive. Have you been to an adult store lately? Now, they're the size of Wal-Mart.''

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