Businesses – including many displaying bongs visible from footpaths in Melbourne’s CBD – will be given until the end of this year to phase out the sale of bongs before fines of up to $1465 are imposed.
Despite cannabis being illegal, the water pipes used to smoke it are freely available in stores displaying them with small signs waiving responsibility for their use by stating they are “for tobacco use only”.
Minister for Mental Health Mary Wooldridge will introduce legislation in Parliament tomorrow outlawing the sale, display and supply of bongs in Victorian shops from the start of next year, aimed at ending the mixed message about the danger and illegality of marijuana.
“While cannabis remains an illegal drug, one of the commonly used methods of consuming it – the bong – has been widely available to buy,” Ms Wooldridge said.
“Through making the display and sale of bongs illegal we take them off the shelves of shops and out of shop windows and stop them being seen as a normal retail item.
“The legislation will also ban the sale, display and supply of bong components and bong kits.
“This will stop the confusing message that while it’s OK to display and sell equipment used for smoking cannabis, it’s illegal to smoke cannabis.”
Almost a third of Victorians over 14 say they have used cannabis.
Drug and Alcohol Research and Training Australia director Paul Dillon said that while the legislation would remove confusion about the illegality of cannabis, he did not believe outlawing bongs would result in a significant decline in the drug’s use.
“Cannabis is the most popular illicit drug and has been for a long time, so having a ban on the implement is most probably not going to have a significant effect on that,” he said.
“People don’t stop using the drug, they just use it in a more dangerous, different way and certainly home-made bongs are far more dangerous than implements you buy in a store. Smoking through a plastic container and silver foil means you also inhale toxic fumes.”
Restrictions on the display of the traditional hookahs or narghiles often used in Arabic and Middle Eastern communities will also be introduced, though the devices will not be banned outright.