Update | Complaint filed on behalf of Maple Valley's PJ Smoke Shack
By TJ MARTINELL
Covington Reporter Reporter
August 30, 2012 · Updated 9:12 AM
A request for an immediate injunction has been filed against on behalf of roll your own cigarette businesses like Maple Valley’s PJ Smoke Shack.
Karen Byrd, who runs the PJ’s Smoke Shack with PJ Abbott, said that although their smoke shop isn’t directly involved in the lawsuit, they are contributing financially to the RYO Coalition of America, which is helping to foot the legal costs.
“Most of us are funding it,” she said. “All of the vendors and members are affected one way or another, including shop keepers, vendors and the people that make the machines. The rest of us are doing our best to fund it even though all of our stores are shut down.”
With the smoke shack closed for almost two months, Byrd said that unless the injunction is successful she will be forced to get out of the business, although she added that she intends to wait until a decision is made. Currently, Byrd said they have two leases, one in Maple Valley and another in Covington where they had hoped to open another smoke shop.
The injunction, filed Aug. 14 by Tobacco Outlet Express LLC and Fredom Filler LLC, seeks to halt the enforcement of an unusual provision within a federal highway bill that broadened the definition of a tobacco manufacturer to include RYO businesses, which makes them subject to the same federal excise taxes and regulations.
“Before the Amendment, federal permitting requirements applied only to commercial cigarette manufactures, and expressly exempted all cigarettes made by consumers for their personal use,” the complaint stated. “The Amendment, however, now subjects retailers offering in-store cigarette rolling machines used by consumers to produce cigarettes for their personal use, to the permitting requirements and attendant regulations that previously applied only to large-scale manufacturers that sell pre-packaged cigarettes.”
The complaint also claims that the provision violates both the equal protection clause in the 14th Amendment “by arbitrarily distinguishing between in-store and at-home consumer production of cigarettes for personal use. There is no rational reason for the law to distinguish between the consumer production of cigarettes, simply based on where such production takes place….The Amendment’s irrationality is explained by its real purpose: to insulate the major tobacco companies from competition.”
The complaint also states that the provisions violates the takings clause in the Fifth Amendment “by eliminating all the use of the Plaintiff’s machines, and, thereby, destroying the Plaintiff’s business of selling the machines.”
The complaint also addressed a notice issued by the Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB), which said it would not process permit applications for business subject to the new legislation.
“This action in and of itself is a regulatory taking that violates the United States Constitution because, without the newly required permit, those businesses cannot operate. In addition, even if TTB processes applications, it will inevitably refuse to issue permits because it is impossible for these businesses offering the in-store machines to comply with new requirements.”
The smoke shop is located at 23714 222nd Pl. S.E.
Contact Covington Reporter Reporter TJ Martinell at firstname.lastname@example.org or 425-432-1209 ext. 5052.