Another piece of legislation under consideration currently in the Sunshine State is being referred to as the “Bong Bill.”The initiative, introduced by Representative Darryl Rouson (D-St. Petersburg), will restrict the sale of pipes, bongs and other drug paraphernalia commonly used to smoke marijuana.
“I’ve been fighting the pipe industry for the longest, because it is all a part of the drug trade and the criminal enterprise that we know exists and destroys neighborhoods, families and order in our society,” Rouson says.
The “head” shops claim that these devices are used for tobacco but they really aren’t, he adds. “When is the last time you stopped at a red light and saw someone smoking a hit of tobacco out of one of these one-shooters or water pipes?” says Rouson.
Last year, he also proposed HB 187, which calls for an extra sales tax on smoking paraphernalia, because he wanted to use the revenue for DARE (Drug Abuse Resistance Education) programs, that were being cut.
“Florida has a conscience and an awareness that marijuana and the smoking and ingesting of it is not healthy for an individual, nor is it healthy for public safety and the order in society,” Rouson says.
Like Florida, Louisianais already tough on marijuana offenders, and is also considering even harsher laws.
Sen. Dan Claitor (R–Baton Rouge), recently introduced SB 576, legislation that calls for an increase inthe penalty for second-offense marijuana possession under the existing law, which now states that "the offender be fined not more than $2,000, imprisoned with or without hard labor for not more than five years, or both."
The bill adds a minimum fine of $250. It also requires that at least 48 hours of the sentence imposed be served without benefit of parole, probation, or suspension, unless the offender is placed on probation with a minimum condition that he participate in a court-approved substance abuse program and perform four eight-hour days of court-approved community service.
Sen. Claitor says, “though many may not agree with me, I believe marijuana is a gateway drug, and this is an opportunity for evaluation on the front rather the backend.”
Louisiana political expert and publisher of LaPolitics.com, Jon Maginnis, says that, “even though Louisiana has a fiscal crisis, it is not a culture of where marijuana is accepted. There is a lot of conservative thinking in the state, people don’t approve of drugs and it is easy to be tough on crime.”
Maginnis adds that once laws are made, it is difficult to get them off the books.
“Part of this is historic,” says Gettman. “Prior to 1970, there were some really harsh penalties about marijuana all throughout the country. In the 1970s, there was a wave of reform, there was the Presidential Commission that recommended decriminalization.”
States with the smaller populations of marijuana users tend to lag in reforming their marijuana laws, he notes. States with larger user populations tend to be a little more politically responsive.