FLORIDA: New legislation regarding drug paraphernalia in Florida has gone into effect on July 1. The ban on selling items such as bongs, rolling papers, and other implements for smoking marijuana or other drugs was passed during the last legislative session and signed into law by Governor Rick Scott in June.
Florida Statute section 893.147 now includes House Bill 49, which states that a retailer may not “knowingly and willingly” sell drug paraphernalia including a multitude of pipes, other than those made of briar, clay, corn cobs, or meerschaum. The results from the debate over the language of the bill has led retailers to breathe a sigh of relief, but Destin marijuana attorney Clay Adkinson warns that caution should still be exercised.
“There are still very serious consequences that retailers may face if they aren’t appropriately careful about selling their products.” Adkinson says that the new legislation is just one of the ways that Florida’s low tolerance for drug use is manifesting.
The bill, as first proposed by drug prohibition supporter Rep. Darryl Rouson, initially omitted the specification that the merchandise must be sold “knowingly and willingly”. This led to an outcry from retailers who demanded that the intent of sellers be taken into consideration, according to the Orlando Sentinel (“Florida smoke shops breathe easy after pipe ban fizzles,” July 6, 2013).
They feared that any product used for drug use could be traced back to a seller and considered grounds for prosecution, whether the product was even intended for paraphernalia or not. Owners of smoke shops and other retailers across the state banded together, and their protests succeeded, according to the Sentinel. Before its adoption, the bill was changed to state that a retailer can only be held accountable if they knew that the merchandise was being purchased for illegal drug use.
Even with the revised language softening the blow for retailers, Adkinson urges them not to overlook potential problems.
“Retailers just need to be strict and smart about selling their products,” said the Destin marijuana defense lawyer. “You never know who might be an undercover officer, and the penalties are just not worth that extra sale.”