A couple weeks ago, Florida governor Rick Scott quietly signed into law a dozen bills, including one that makes illegal the sale of pipes that are often associated with marijuana use. The bill now signed into law also includes provisions that would criminalize mere possession of drug paraphernalia. At first sight, it appears that the legislation follows a rash of seemingly-similar G.O.P. legislation, but regardless of the intentions behind the governor or state lawmakers, the outcome of this bill appear to ensure higher criminality and thus a larger prison population.
Upon first reading of the bill, it's hard not to conclude that the intent here is similar to much of the neoconservative legislation that has swept multiple states over the last several years. As the 2000 Gore v. Bush election made clear, Florida is one of a handful of states that do not allow for convicted felons to vote. Its no secret that the people with records in Florida tend to vote Democratic. And if that level of voting discrimination is not enough, many of the individuals impacted by this specific piece of legislation are younger people, a group that tends to vote Democratic.
However, that initial instinct is contradicted by the mere fact that the sponsor of the bill is Democrat Daryl Rouson. It would not make much political sense for a Democrat to push for a bill like this if it does indeed alienate many potential Democratic voters. Rouson, apparently a recovering addict, may have pushed the bill for more personal reasons.
It is important to remember that bills are not judged simply as a function of lawmaker intent, but the ramifications that are to follow from them. According to one blogger, the bill would effectively ban metal pipes, wooden pipes, glass pipes, carburetor pipes, electric pipes, bongs, air-driven pipes, and chillums. Unsurprisingly, there is a strong criminalization aspect to the bill. According to analysis performed by the Criminal Justice Impact Conference on legislation very similar to this bill, the legislation will increase the state prison bed population. An increased prison bed population means more money geared towards funding that increase, increasing the burden on the state and local governments.
A larger prison population also means more potentially productive members of society languishing in prison, with incredibly poor prospects for future employment, housing, and even government assistance. And that's why this piece of legislation is reprehensible. It practically guarantees more people in the already bloated prison pipeline, for "crimes" such as possession of a bong. And that's why legislation like this should be called out, regardless of their originators.
Chalk up another victory for the failure of a policy that is the War On Drugs.