Forsyth ‘drug’ paraphernalia sellers under new scrutiny

First hearing held, second takes place June 6

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FORSYTH COUNTY, Ga. — County leaders are moving forward with a law that would further regulate the sale of “bongs.”

The first of two public hearings of a proposed Forsyth County Ordinance regulating the sale of non-traditional tobacco paraphernalia was held May 2.

The Forsyth County Board of Commissioners did not take any action on the first public hearing. The second public hearing and possible adoption of the changes takes place June 6.

County Attorney Ken Jarrard said the issue was brought up due to concerns by the Forsyth County Board of Commissioners of “illegal substance” use among minors.

The county wants to regulate the use of water pipes, commonly known as “bongs” and hookah pipes. The items are currently only legal to be sold to people 18 years and older and can be bought in the county at tobacco shops, retail outlets and gasoline stations.

If approved, any person who would want to sell the non-traditional tobacco paraphernalia would need to – by the end of the year – apply with the county for a special $50 license and begin to keep written logs of people who purchase these items, including name and address.

The law would exclude the sale of cigarette papers, wrappers, blunt wraps and “traditional tobacco pipes (such as brand names Briar and Meerschaum), holders, cigarette rolling machines or tobacco in any form whatsoever.”

A county resident said the fee for the licenses should be higher than $50, and Commissioner Cindy Jones Mills said she thinks the license fee should be at least $1,000.

An alcohol license is $4,000.

“The concern is that the fee we set for a permit needs to bear a relationship to the cost to regulate,” Jarrard said. “We can’t set a fee that is roughly a backdoor tax.”

Jarrard said he will work to find out a more accurate cost for the enforcement of the proposed law.

Another resident said she disagreed with keeping names and addresses of every customer.

Commissioners seemed inclined to remove that section from law.

“That seems a little bit of an invasion of privacy,” Chairman Pete Amos said.

Jarrard said that if the board consents, he can remove the portion.

Commissioner Jim Boff said that as far as he understands, hookahs are used for cultural, not illicit drugs.

“But to some degree, we have now taken that and said, ‘it’s misused for tobacco and other things’ and it exists in large parts of the world and it’s not used for drug use or tobacco,” Boff said.

Jarrard said that if it’s a cultural use, that’s fine, but in American culture, “it’s a gateway for drug use.”

“We’re simply saying that if you want to sell these, you have to come in and get a supplemental license,” Jarrard said.