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Is It Legal to Grow Tobacco?

Is it legal to grow tobacco

Growing and selling tobacco has become a major hobby for many people around the world. Planting, seeds, cultivating, and curating the crop have been a great time-killer for many people, while others do it to start their own tobacco business. It’s also pretty simple to grow tobacco.

However, growing tobacco for personal use and doing it to sell and distribute have varying consequences depending on where you are. In this article, we’ll talk about the legality of growing tobacco in the US, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand, along with the most important laws you should remember. Read on!

The Quick Answer

In many countries, it is legal to grow tobacco on your own or in your backyard as long as it’s for personal consumption. 

However, the answer gets tricky when you intend to sell and distribute the tobacco you’re growing. In many countries, you’ll have to acquire specific licenses depending on your purpose for growing. The license for selling is separate from a license to distribute, and so on. 

Other countries have stricter tobacco laws that require you to pay duties or acquire licenses even if you’re growing tobacco for personal use. 

Growing Tobacco in the US 

Homegrown tobacco is legal in most areas in the US as long as it’s for personal use. Federal laws also have no restrictions when it comes to quantity, so growers can cultivate as much tobacco as they want. 

However, selling or trading homegrown tobacco requires you to pay tax duties per sale. It’s illegal to sell without appropriate taxes, and penalties can be extremely punitive. 

Since the US tobacco industry is heavily regulated, you need to obtain four main types of licenses before you can start selling: 

Retail Tobacco License 

If you want to enter the tobacco market as a seller, you need a Cigarette and Tobacco License. You must apply and submit a one-time fee for each retail location you have. You also need to renew this license every year. 

Tobacco Manufacturing License 

Since you’re technically a manufacturer, too, you need to have a state license from the location of your manufacturing plant. The same applies to sellers who manufacture tobacco by-products. 

Tobacco Wholesaling License 

If you want to wholesale or distribute your tobacco to other businesses, you need a license for that, too. The license should come from the state where you plan to distribute your products. 

Import-Export Tobacco License 

The guidelines for wholesale licenses apply here. You must obtain a license for each location or state where you plan to distribute; you also need a license from the federal government. Tobacco growers can get this license from the Alcohol & Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau

Canada’s Tobacco Tax Act (2001) 

In Canada, the same general guidelines apply: growing tobacco for personal use is legal, but you must have licenses and pay taxes if you want to sell and distribute. 

However, there are some important differences. For example, while the US imposes no limits on how much tobacco you can grow, Canada restricts people to only 15 kilograms of raw leaf. 

Meanwhile, the Tobacco Tax Act also allows people to: 

  • Buy, import, or export up to 3 kilograms of raw leaf tobacco for personal use 
  • Transport up to 5 kilograms of raw leaf tobacco for personal use 

Also under the Tobacco Tax Act, the Raw Leaf Tobacco Program requires you to get registration certificates from the Ministry of Finance if you: 

  • Plant, grow, harvest, or cure raw leaf tobacco
  • Process raw leaf tobacco
  • Sell or buy raw leaf tobacco
  • Import or export raw leaf tobacco 
  • Transport raw leaf tobacco  

Without the right certificates, Canadian authorities may seize your tobacco and impose fines and/or penalties. 

Australia’s Illicit Tobacco Task Force

The same general rules apply in Australia. However, the country has even stricter processes when it comes to regulating illicit tobacco. 

According to the Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission, “It is illegal to grow tobacco in Australia, and excise is payable on all legally imported tobacco products.” 

To enforce this rule, the ACIC created the Illicit Tobacco Task Force (ITTF) in July 2018 to proactively target, disrupt, and dismantle organized crime syndicates that manufacture and distribute illicit tobacco. 

The ITTF focuses on: 

  • Domestic manufacturing 
  • Illicit tobacco importation and distribution (along with money laundering) 
  • Identification of illicit tobacco source countries and capabilities 
  • The involvement of organized crime groups 

Under the Treasury Laws Amendment (Illicit Tobacco Offences) Act of 2018, illicit tobacco manufacturers face up to 10 years in prison and hefty fines if caught. 

Moreover, it’s illegal to sell or buy nicotine for e-cigarettes in Australia unless they’re supplied or accessed using a prescription. In most states, it’s also illegal to use e-cigarettes where smoking is illegal. 

The New Zealand Ban 

It’s legal to grow tobacco at home in New Zealand as long as it’s for personal use, and you’ll have to secure permits and pay taxes to be a seller and distributor. 

However, New Zealand has perhaps the most ambitious goal when it comes to tobacco regulation when compared to the US, Canada, and Australia. In a nutshell, New Zealand is aiming to ban the sale of tobacco to its next generation. The ultimate goal is to eventually phase out smoking in the country by 2025

Under the new legislation, the legal smoking age will increase every year. So far, people under 14 will never be legally able to buy tobacco. The government will also impose other measures to make smoking unaffordable and inaccessible. These measures include decreasing the legal amount of nicotine in tobacco products to extremely low levels. They will also limit the number of shops that can legally sell tobacco and cigarettes, through vape sales won’t be restricted. 

Though the new legislation has been met with support by health professionals, others have also criticized it — some say that it will lead to black market growth for tobacco. 

The New Zealand government has since acknowledged this risk as evidence suggests that more tobacco products have been smuggled into the country in recent years; organized crime groups have also been involved in large-scale smuggling operations in the country.

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