The Obama administration has decriminalized smoking Cuban cigars while traveling abroad. Americans can now enjoy their favorite cigars while sunning on a beach in the Bahamas or relaxing in the Tuscan countryside without fear of criminal prosecution. Consumption of Cuban rum outside the U.S. has also been decriminalized.
While most Americans are aware that bringing Cuban cigars or rum into the country was a big no-no, not many of us knew that we were in violation of the U.S. embargo while buying them in other countries for local consumption. Under 2004 regulations, the U.S. embargo against Cuba was extended to purchases made in other countries. Thus, we faced criminal and civil penalties for smoking cigars or drinking rum made in Cuba while wandering overseas.
As of March 16, 2016, however, Americans can enjoy their favorite Cuban cigars and rum just about anywhere in the word, except within the United States. The Department of Treasury announced: “Effective March 16, 2016, persons subject to U.S. jurisdiction may purchase or acquire Cuban-origin merchandise, including alcohol and tobacco products, while in a third country provided such products are consumed while in a third country.”
Americans can also travel to Cuba and bring back their favorite rum and cigars. The recent loosening of regulations allow Americans visiting Cuba for permissible purposes to purchase alcohol and tobacco products for personal use while in Cuba, and may return to the United States with up to $100 worth of alcohol or tobacco products bought in Cuba.
Jose A. Aquino (@JoseAquinoEsq on Twitter) is a special counsel in the New York office of Duane Morris LLP, and a member of the Duane Morris Cuba Business Group. This blog is prepared and published for informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the author’s law firm or its individual attorneys.