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Can a Felon Get a Tobacco License?

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Release from prison is only the first of many challenges for felons. There are resources available although felons may not believe they can get a job. Those who have hired felons have discovered that they make good employees, but it might be in a different career from one felons had previously.

This blog post will address the issue of whether or not a felon can get a tobacco license.

  • What is a Tobacco License?
  • What Is a Business License?
  • An Opportunity for Felons?
  • Recommended Action


What is a Tobacco License?

A tobacco license is a business license to sell, import, or manufacture cigarettes and other tobacco products. It is a legal document issued by the state department (also city or county) which indicates that a business is legally allowed to deal in cigarettes and other tobacco products under state law.

A tobacco license is granted by local, state, or federal authorities, depending on the location of the business and nature of the tobacco-related activity. The license is obtained from the Alcohol & Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB).

There are several types of tobacco licenses:

  • Retail – Selling cigarettes or tobacco products directly to the public from a specified retail location, including cigarette vending machines
  • Manufacturer – Processing tobacco products from raw tobacco
  • Wholesaler – Selling tobacco to retail tobacco sellers
  • Importer/Exporter – Importing and/or exporting raw or processed tobacco into and/or out of the U.S.

A dealer in cigarettes or tobacco products must:

  • Display the license to the public
  • Maintain purchase invoices for cigarettes and tobacco products for four years
  • Keep all invoices at the location indicated on the license for the first year after purchase
  • Allow board staff or law enforcement agencies to review all invoices upon request
  • Meet record-keeping requirements related to the purchase or manufacturing of cigarettes and tobacco products

What Is a Business License?

The majority of businesses need some type of license and permit from federal and state agencies.  Those required depend on the type of business, location, and laws in that state. A federal license is necessary for any business with activities regulated by a federal agency like businesses in agriculture, alcohol, and firearms.

A state license depends on the type of business and location, which may include construction, restaurants, and some retail operations. Contacting the state in which a felon will reside and operate a business is recommended to understand particular licensing requirements of that state.

There are several reasons why a business license is necessary:

  • To identify a business and ensure accountability for its operation
  • To protect the public’s health and safety
  • To maintain finances for tax purposes

It is essential to maintain any required license to avoid penalties and protect the business. Not having a license can result in penalties or even having the business shut down.

An Opportunity for Felons?

A felony will typically not prevent someone from obtaining a business license. Most applications will ask the applicant to provide details and an explanation related to any criminal conviction. The licensing authority will then investigate the offense and decide whether to issue the tobacco license or not.

Generally, if a felon is honest about the information and the crime is not directly related to the license, such as selling tobacco products to a minor, the license will be issued.

If a felon applies to obtain a tobacco license, he or she needs to be honest in reporting any conviction. A felony that isn’t disclosed but is discovered on a background check is fraud, punishable by possibly being sent back to prison.

Felons have enough of a challenge without lying on an application, typically being seen as dishonest, untrustworthy, and unwilling or unable to follow directions from authority figures. A felon should contact an attorney for appropriate legal advice if they’re not sure how to proceed with getting a tobacco license.

Having their record expunged can give them a clear record and the chance they need to succeed in getting a tobacco license. Expunging a criminal record allows anyone to honestly state on an application that he or she has not been convicted of a crime.

Recommended Action

It is quite challenging, but it could be worth it for a felon wanting to obtain a tobacco license. Giving him or herself the best chance for success by having his or her record expunged could make the critical difference.

Documenting any programs, education, or training he or she has completed will be beneficial. These are positive steps for a felon to take to provide strong evidence of being of “good moral character.”

Having support from family, friends, or even previous employers is essential. Felons don’t have to be defined by their crime. We are not defined by our mistakes but by how we recover from them. They can begin again and live an honest life no matter how challenging it might seem.

Families of felons are usually very invested in helping their loved one get a tobacco license. Stand by your loved one, encourage them, and help them do what it takes to seek approval for a dispensary. This can be a frustrating, discouraging process to go through. Having a tobacco license will require living an honest life.

What do you think about this blog post? Have you or someone you know been in the situation of trying to get a tobacco license with a felony? What was that like for him or her, and how did he or she achieve success? Please tell us in the comments below.

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