Often in the alcoholic beverage industry, as well as adjacent industries, federal and state laws that should provide clarification instead lead to further confusion. It is not uncommon for businesses to need to seek clarification on how to proceed without violating laws or risking their licenses.
For example, a wholesaler in Miami-Dade County recently filed a Petition for Declaratory Statement before the Florida Division of Alcoholic Beverages and Tobacco (DABT). The petition seeks clarification on whether they need a license in order to sell rolling papers as a distributor in Florida. Here are some of the highlights of the petition.
Inconsistencies within the law
The main issue here concerns inconsistencies within Florida statutes. As stated in the petition, the wholesaler intends to sell tobacco rolling papers in the state. According to Florida Statute 210.35, it is prohibited for distributors to engage in selling or dealing tobacco products without a license to do so. However, the definition of tobacco products supplied within this statute, which goes into detail to define the products, notably does not include wrapping papers or anything of the sort.
In Chapter 569 of the Florida Statutes, tobacco products have a different definition altogether. Florida Statute 569.003 states that retail tobacco products dealer permits are required for those seeking to deal in tobacco products at the retail level. In Florida Statute 569.002, the definition given of tobacco products does include cigarette wrappers, which the wholesaler understands to include rolling papers.
Seeking clarification from the DABT
In this case, the wholesaler has now filed a Petition for Declaratory Statement to provide clarity on whether the DABT requires a license to sell rolling papers as a distributor in Florida. As the taxation statute and licensure statute offer very different definitions of tobacco products, they are unable to proceed without such clarification.
This example underscores the importance of legal guidance for businesses in the alcoholic beverage industry and industry adjacent businesses. The complexity of laws concerning these businesses can easily lead to roadblocks that require an experienced eye to review. An attorney can help businesses understand their options, including filing Petitions for Declaratory Statements to seek clarification directly from the DABT.