Politics

Cigar Makers Defeat Blunt Ban, Push Wrapper Ban

| by Reason Foundation

Last week the Pennsylvania Supreme Court overturned a 2006 Philadelphia ordinance that restricted cigar sales to discourage the practice of hollowing them out and using them to smoke pot.

The ordinance banned the sale of flavored cigars and required that other cigars be sold in quantities of three or more; it included additional penalties for prohibited cigar sales within 500 feet of a church, school, recreation center, day care center, or community center. One of the plaintiffs that successfully challenged the law was the Cigar Association of America (CAA), which said legal products should not be banned simply because they can be used for illegal purposes. Yet the very same trade group is now encouraging state legislators to ban the sale of cigar wrappers because they can be used for illegal purposes.

What explains this puzzling inconsistency? It may have something to do with the fact that the CAA's members do not sell cigar wrappers, which take business away from them whether used to make cigars or giant joints. But the group is not motivated purely by the desire to crush the competition. It also wants to score cheap P.R. points:

The cigar group, which represents manufacturers, is planning to argue in Salem, [Oregon,] as it has been contending in other state capitals, that the reputation of its own products is being sullied by the marketing of these wrappers to pot smokers under the guise of being part of the cigar culture.

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"We don't want to be connected with drugs," [lobbyist Paul] Cosgrove said. "We have a legitimate, lawful product."

The Pennsylvania ruling, which concludes that Philadelphia's cigar ban is pre-empted by state law, is here (PDF). In a 2009 Reason feature story, I explained how innocent items become drug paraphernalia.