US president Barack Obama announced plans yesterday to re-establish diplomatic relations with Cuba and ease travel and trade restrictions. And that means now Cuba’s famed rum and cigars can be brought legally into the US.
The policy is restrictive. The embargo on Cuban goods is still intact, which means that imports from Cuba are illegal, for the most part. Authorized American travelers to Cuba, however, are allowed to bring $400 worth of goods—including up to $100 each of tobacco and alcohol products—back into the US. (As the New York Post notes, that’s two Cohiba Corono Especiales and three bottles of Havana Club, going by prices listed on Canadian websites.)
Re-selling any of those goods is also illegal, which means that, aside from those who are explicitly allowed to travel to Cuba—which includes journalists, humanitarian workers, performers, and people visiting “a close relative”—Americans are still out of luck.
The US would have to remove the embargo for that to change, which could happen soon. On Wednesday, Obama called for an “honest and serious debate about lifting” it. That would likely shake up the $13 billion cigar market in the US with new demand for Cuban cigars. They’ve been a hot item since John F. Kennedy famously sent an aide to acquire a store of 1,200 of them before imposing the embargo in 1962. Whether the craze has merit is up for debate.