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Pennsylvania Mulls Direct Import Of Cuban Rum

March 8, 2017

Pennsylvania control state officials have been touring Cuba and talking to trade officials there, with the aim of importing Cuban-made rum into the state—flouting the U.S. embargo on Cuban products.

Several top Pennsylvania legislators, along with two of the three members of the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board, spent five days in Cuba recently and returned with the promise to consult with statehouse lawyers to find a way to import rum. Their argument, according to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, is that the 21st Amendment that ended Prohibition 30 years before the Cuban embargo was enacted granted all states absolute control over the sale of beverage alcohol within their own jurisdictions.

The legislators suggested they would ask for a declaratory judgment from a federal judge before starting any import program.

In a joint venture with Pernod Ricard, Cuba has been exporting rum to more than 100 countries for more than two decades. Pennsylvania’s liquor control board amassed $2.4 billion in retail wine and spirits sales in last year. According to the Post-Gazette, $147 million of that total was in rum, ranking the commonwealth seventh in rum consumption among all 50 states.

Any reaction from President Donald Trump to a breaking of the embargo is hard to gauge. In the 1990s, Trump once showed an interest in investing in Cuba, but more recently he has aligned his views with those of Sen. Marco Rubio, the Republican of Florida who has opposed any trade opening with the island. —Lee Murphy

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