FORSYTH COUNTY, Ga. — Last year, Forsyth County Commissioners tightened their ordinance to address synthetic marijuana.
Now, there’s interest in narrowing the restrictions on places of business that sell glass pipes and water pipes, often considered drug paraphernalia by law enforcement and known as “bongs” to users.
Because synthetic marijuana is illegal in Forsyth County and the state, there’s a push to make the products used to consume the drug also illegal. But they are already illegal.
Establishments in Forsyth County that sell glass pipes and water pipes ask that only persons who are 18-years or older enter their establishment.
If someone asks to buy a “bong,” they are shown the door, said one businesses owner at a tobacco shop in Forsyth County.
“We don’t use that sort of language,” the shopkeeper told the Forsyth Herald. “We tell our employees, if someone uses that sort of language to kick them out.”
It’s all in how the product is marketed. If the pipes are advertised as art or for tobacco use, they are legal. To market the pipes for illicit drugs is illegal.
At their March 12 work session, County Attorney Ken Jarrard said he is researching ways the county can stop transactions of places selling the products that have “potential for illegal use.”
In a presentation regarding drug paraphernalia, Jarrard said there’s not much the county can do to regulate the products because they are already illegal.
Signs at area smoke shops read, “Tobacco Use Only.”
The sale of tobacco paraphernalia to minors is also already illegal, including rolling papers and water pipes.
“The county cannot make illegal something the state already makes illegal,” Jarrard told commissioners.
But the county can impose regulations on the sellers of these devices, taking them away from public view and possibly imposing higher business license fees.
“What about the notion of keeping them from public view,” Jarrard said. “If we go blindly down this path, and start saying that anything that is a cigar, cigarette or a smoking implement has to be hidden from public view, we are going to run into cigar shops crying foul and even places like Walmart.”
Jarrard said what the county is working on is defining and carving a distinction in the law to block or keep the item out of sight, perhaps behind an opaque screen.
“Sure you have the right to sell it,” Jarrard said. “You don’t have the right to display it.”
Forsyth County Sheriff’s Office Major Rick Doyle, director of operations, said from a law enforcement perspective, “it would be nice if such implements were not readily accessible or available to minors.”
“Unfortunately many of the items you are talking about are marketed for ‘tobacco’ use or as ‘glass art’” Doyle said. “Currently, it would become a law enforcement issue if we encounter any of those devices being used with any illegal substances.”