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Agustin is sought after by clients for his strategic counsel on their most challenging competitive and regulatory compliance issues, including tobacco Master Settlement Agreement issues, federal and state enforcement investigations, licensing and excise tax issues, developing compliance programs, and evaluating advertising and marketing practices. A partner in the firm’s Regulatory Investigations, Strategy + Enforcement (RISE) Practice Group as well as its Tobacco and Cannabis law practices, he represents manufacturers, distributors, retailers, and suppliers in all aspects of their businesses, including regulatory compliance, FDA requirements, administrative disputes involving federal or state governmental entities, mergers and acquisitions, commercial agreements, and taxation matters.

On February 24, 2023, the Food and Drug Administration (“FDA”) issued a response to the report prepared by the Reagan-Udall Foundation in December 2022. The Foundation’s report was originally commissioned by FDA Commissioner Robert Califf, highlighted a number of issues with the operations of the agency’s Center for Tobacco Products, which has been tasked with regulating tobacco and nicotine products in the U.S., and proposed 15 recommendations for consideration by the agency. You can read our summary of the report’s findings here.

Continue Reading FDA Responds to Reagan-Udall Foundation Report

The Troutman Pepper Tobacco Team was featured in part one of a two-part podcast on recent developments in the tobacco industry and what to expect for the coming year. In this podcast, Bryan Haynes, Agustin Rodriguez and Nick Ramos discuss developments at the federal level, including important happenings at FDA, including leadership changes, the premarket

On February 9, Attorney General William Tong sued five Connecticut retailers for violating the state’s Unfair Trade Practices Act (UTPA) by selling allegedly illegal delta-8 tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) products, many of which mimicked snack foods and candies popular among youth.

Continue Reading Connecticut AG Sues Retailers for Illegal Delta-8 THC Product Sales

On January 26, the Food and Drug Administration essentially threw up its hands and announced that Congress needs to create a new regulatory pathway for cannabidiol (CBD) products because the existing pathways are inadequate to mitigate possible health risks. The agency simultaneously denied three long-pending requests to allow marketing of CBD products as dietary supplements. The move came as a major setback to industry stakeholders that have waited years for clear guidelines on CBD from FDA.

Continue Reading FDA Won’t Use Its Existing Authority to Regulate CBD After All

The Senate recently passed the Medical Marijuana and Cannabidiol Research Expansion Act (the Act) by a voice vote after the House of Representatives passed the bill with strong bipartisan support (325-95) last July. The Act is the first stand-alone marijuana legislation passed in decades and, according to some news sources, President Biden will likely sign it within the next two weeks. Historically, conducting research with Schedule I controlled substances has been subject to numerous administrative hurdles and onerous security requirements that have deterred many potential researchers. The Act amends key sections of the Controlled Substances Act (CSA) to ease some of those restrictions and to facilitate research on marijuana and its potential therapeutic benefits, without changing marijuana’s designation as a Schedule I controlled substance. Some of the key provisions are summarized below.

Continue Reading Bipartisan Marijuana Research Bill Heads to Biden’s Desk

California voters have approved Senate Bill 793, which prohibits tobacco retailers from selling flavored tobacco products or tobacco product flavor enhancers. A lawsuit has been filed in federal court claiming that it is unconstitutional.

On November 8, 2022, California voters said “yes” to Proposition 31, a referendum on a 2020 law that would prohibit the retail sale of certain flavored tobacco products. The constitutionality of the referenced law, Senate Bill 793 (“SB793”), is at issue in a case filed the next day in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of California, R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co., et al. v. Bonta, et al., No. 3:22-cv-01755 (S.D. Cal.); however, the plaintiffs’ success in that case will likely depend on the development of favorable precedents in other cases pending before appellate courts.

Continue Reading California Voters Approve Flavored Tobacco Ban in Referendum; Is It Unconstitutional?

On November 3, Judge Gary L. Sharpe of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of New York issued a preliminary injunction, blocking cannabis regulators from issuing marijuana retail licenses for five geographic regions across the state, while a constitutional challenge to the program proceeds.

Continue Reading Federal Judge Finds NY Cannabis Residency Rules Likely Unconstitutional and Discriminatory Against Out-of-State Applicants

Over the past few years, at least five states and several hundred localities have passed, or attempted to pass, laws banning flavored tobacco products. There have been a number of challenges to those laws—few of which have been successful. In a recent ruling, the Washington County Circuit Court handed a win to businesses challenging a local ordinance (the Ordinance) seeking to impose a ban on the sale of flavored tobacco products.

Continue Reading Oregon Court Sides with Businesses Challenging Local Flavor Ban Ordinance

In determining whether the commerce clause of the U.S. Constitution prohibits a state’s taxation of a remote seller, the U.S. Supreme Court for decades has upheld a tax if (1) there is a substantial nexus between the taxing state and the taxpayer; (2) the tax is fairly apportioned; (3) the tax does not discriminate against interstate commerce; and (4) the tax is fairly related to the taxing state’s provision of services to the taxpayer.[1]

What kind of nexus is substantial enough to allow a state to tax a business’s sales in interstate commerce? In its 2018 decision in South Dakota v. Wayfair, Inc., the U.S. Supreme Court held that a business’s physical presence in the taxing state is not required.[2] Describing the remote-seller litigants as “large, national companies that undoubtedly maintain an extensive virtual presence,” the Court held that substantial nexus was clear in view of “both the economic and virtual contacts” that the remote-seller litigants had with South Dakota.[3] The U.S. Supreme Court recited the general rule that substantial nexus exists when a taxpayer has availed itself of the substantial privilege of carrying on business in the taxing state, and it appeared to describe “virtual contacts” and “virtual presence” as follows: “Between targeted advertising and instant access to most consumers via any internet-enabled device, ‘a business may be present in a State in a meaningful way without’ that presence ‘being physical in the traditional sense of the term.’”[4] Wayfair left many questions unanswered, including whether (and, if so, how) “virtual contacts” and “virtual presence” may be required for a substantial nexus to tax in compliance with the commerce clause.

Continue Reading State Taxation of Remote Sellers: US Supreme Court Declines Review of First Post-Wayfair Decision from a State Supreme Court

The Department has issued updated guidance addressing remote sellers’ cigarette and tobacco tax responsibilities after the Minnesota Legislature’s mid-2021 amendments to the State’s cigarette and tobacco tax and tobacco product delivery sales statutes, Congress’ late-2020 amendment of the Jenkins Act, and a 2018 decision of the U.S. Supreme Court on permissible state taxation of remote sales.

On May 9, 2022, the Minnesota Department of Revenue (the “Department”) issued Revenue Notice # 22‑02 on remote sellers’ tax payment responsibilities under the State’s cigarette and tobacco tax and tobacco product delivery sales statutes. The notice applies to all delivery sales after December 31, 2021, and it revokes and replaces the Department’s earlier notice on these subjects.
Continue Reading Minnesota Department of Revenue Revokes and Replaces Guidance on Remote Sellers’ Tobacco Tax Responsibilities