PA Supreme Court Strikes Down Philadelphia Tobacco Law

PHILADELPHIA -- The Pennsylvania Supreme Court has struck down a four-year-old city tobacco ordinance aimed at stopping the sale of tobacco products that could be used for illegal drug use. In a narrow 4-to-3 vote, the court ruled the local law was inconsistent with the state law regulating tobacco products and drug paraphernalia, according to media reports.

The Philadelphia ordinance, which was enacted in January 2007, prohibited retail businesses from selling blunt cigars, rolling papers and other products. The ordinance also banned the sale of single cigarettes, known as "loosies."

State law prohibits the sale of any paraphernalia used to grow, harvest, package or use illegal drugs. However, it limits prosecution to situations in which the seller knows or "reasonably should know" that the paraphernalia would be used illegally, according to the Philadelphia Daily News.

The Philadelphia City Council’s ordinance took this a step further and called for prosecution regardless of what the seller knew about the intended use, the paper reported. It stated that the measure was designed "to correct and control a … growing trend among Philadelphia youth and others to purchase cigars, empty the tobacco form those cigars, and substitute marijuana and/or stronger illegal drugs into the cigar wrapping," the news outlet said.

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