It’s hard to believe that in 2011, retailers in Victoria are still able to sell cannabis water pipes – or more popularly referred to as, bongs – on display out in the open. Yes, the author of this piece was surprised to learn of this fact… because isn’t marijuana illegal? The answer to that question is of course marijuana is illegal in Australia, but how are Victorian shopkeepers still able to sell bongs in stores? Well, cannabis water pipes can be displayed in shops and markets if the owner displays a sign stating that the bong is for tobacco use. Needless to say, the loophole was finally closed down with the introduction of the Drugs, Poisons and Controlled Substances Amendment (Prohibition of Display and Sale of Cannabis Water Pipes) Bill 2011 (the bill) which was recently assented by the Victorian Parliament, making it illegal for shops in the State to display or sell bongs, and additionally, the bill has also limited the sale of hookahs as well. The assenting of the bill signifies that the new laws will come into force from 1 January 2012.
The elements of the bill
The new bill has made it an offence for retailers from displaying and selling any implement which can be used to inhale cannabis, whether it is a cannabis water pipe or bong kits, or any other components which allows a person to consume marijuana.
Anyone found to be in breach of the new laws will find themselves being hit in the hip pocket. So for instance, any natural person who is found to be displaying or selling a bong, a bong kit, or any other associated components, will face a maximum fine of $7,167, while a body corporate can be fined up to $35,835. Ouch.
Additionally, the bill has also limited the sale of hookahs, although there is no outright ban of the smoking implement being sold in Victoria. Instead, shops are limited to displaying no more than three hookahs, and any person who is found to be selling more than the proscribed amount, can face a maximum fine of $1,194.50, while a body corporate that is found guilty, may be fined a maximum of $5,972.50. We here at FindLaw cannot help but wonder as to how big the demand is of hookahs if a retail owner feels compelled to display more than the allowable amount, anyway.
We should conclude this piece with one of the more interesting aspects of the bill, which requires the police to return any seized items under this Part, and must take reasonable steps to return the items to the lawful owner – either once the reason for seizure of the item no longer exists, or within three months after seizure of the item. However, the caveat is that no proceedings have commenced or has not yet been completed, or a Magistrates’ Court has issued an order extending the retention period. Although, we should point out, that the Court may order that the bong or any other associated component can be destroyed if a person has been found guilty of an offence against the related section.