Online cigar sales now illegal in Maryland

Baltymore, Maryland

Thinking of purchasing your next case of cigars online or by mail order? If you’re in Maryland, think again. Recent legislation has made it illegal for you to purchase your cigars anywhere but in-state.

The new law, HB 88, went into effect on the first of May. After being passed in the State House and the Senate, Governor Martin O’Malley signed into law the prohibition of selling or purchasing “OTP” (Other Tobacco Products) either by mail order or online.

Why would such an absurd law even be drafted? The reason is pure greed, plain and simple. Maryland wants to collect as much sales tax as possible on tobacco. This fascist move is all in an attempt to line the state government’s pockets a little more.

Naturally cigar aficionados have raised their voices loudly in protest. In response, Field Enforcement Division Director Jeffrey A. Kelly made the following statement: "The intent of HB 88 was to strengthen Maryland's ability to identify and prevent widespread occurrences of tax avoidance and smuggling of other tobacco products (OTP), which include cigars, little cigars, pipe tobacco, chewing tobacco and moist snuff. For years, contraband OTP-on which the tobacco tax has not been paid but is due-entered Maryland in a variety of manners, virtually unrestricted and unregulated."

Were the legislators motivated by any benevolent motives toward local retailers? Certainly not—Kelly is quick to dispel that notion as well. "One reason this bill was needed is because certain retailers have purchased and sold contraband OTP illegally and the prosecution of these retailers under previous law was difficult at best."

How do Maryland tobacconists feel about the measure? While most have failed to issue a statement, prominent tobacconist Holt’s Cigar Co. from Pennsylvania stated that the law is unconstitutional, and pointed out that rural MD customers are now condemned to live without cigars unless they want to travel long distances. For some customers, long distance travel may be nigh impossible. Are rural cigar smokers without personal vehicles no longer allowed access to cigars? And then there’s the whole issue of selection. There is a far broader selection of cigars available online and through mail order than there is at a local shop. Are these cigars off limit to Marylanders now?

All hope isn’t lost for Maryland smokers who like to order their cigars online or via mail though. Delegate Michael Smigiel intends to introduce counter-legislation at the fall General Assembly, and Christine Feldmann, the Comptroller’s Deputy Director, Office of Communications, plans to try to counteract the measure as well, recognizing the need for moderation in addressing government tax issues while still permitting customers their freedoms.

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4 Comments on “Online cigar sales now illegal in Maryland”

  1. Oh my god! Whatever happened with the land of the free?

  2. J.Lawrence says:

    PLEASE FORWARD !
    Hey Maryland…Repeal your recent enactment THE BAN of “on-line cigar ordering” or I for one and plenty of others, I’m sure, will no longer make Maryland a VACATIONING STOP SPOT !!! Spread the word. Oh yes and Maryland, HAVE A NICE DAY!

  3. Maryland is prohibiting the interstate commerce of a legal product in a desperate attempt to generate tax revenue. The Maryland Senate Budget and Taxation Committee already increased taxes on alcohol effective July 1 to aid in decreasing the $2 billion structural deficit. I would not be surprised to see other states follow suit as legislators feel the pinch of the economic downturn.

  4. As a cigar retailer I have to applaud this. Internet sales has made the Brick and Mortar shops a dying business. Especially with the unfair tax disparity between many states.

    If more folks took into consideration the folks that feed their family selling premium cigars this wouldn’t be necessary.

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