Time to book flights to Canada. As of this morning, cigar and rum lovers long plagued by the Cuban embargo can now bring back cigars from any foreign country for personal use.
The Obama administration’s permission of Cuban products has been a slow but progressive rollback. Earlier this year it was legal to bring back just $100 worth of Cuban cigars, and only if you were bringing them back directly from Cuba. 2016 also saw the legalization of Americans enjoying Cubans in foreign countries (apparently until now, Americans couldn’t even enjoy one while in another country — oops).
Now it’s as if the flood gates have been opened. While the embargo still officially stands, Americans visiting any country where Cuban products are sold can now bring back a technically unlimited amount of cigars or rum, as long as it is for personal use.
Personal use is a purposefully ambiguous word choice, so be smart. With a few boxes of different products you might look like you’re stocking up for the winter. With five boxes of the same thing you may raise a red flag or two over intent to sell. But unless your weekender bag looks like it was previously owned by Winston Churchill, you should be fine bringing back whatever your heart desires.
The one remaining caveat: You’ve got to leave the country to get Cubans. Importing them via parcel service and ordering them online both remain technically illegal. We know heading out of the country is a hassle, but a few hundred in round-trip airfare to Canada is still a lot cheaper than tens of thousands of dollars in fines you’re liable for if you get caught by Customs and Border Patrol.
And you’d better get comfortable with this system, since it’s still unclear if we’ll see Cubans sold legally in the U.S. in our lifetimes. Recent FDA regulations have (depending on who’s doing the interpretation) basically made it impossible for Cuban cigars to ever be sold within the United States, even if the embargo is fully lifted. But we expect that there are one or two people in Washington who can find a loophole.