Florida ABT backs off herbal tinctures

Florida retailers have received letters that rescind notices of noncompliance with the state's alcoholic beverage laws.

The American Herbal Products Association (AHPA) has been informed that Florida retailers have received letters from the Florida Division of Alcoholic Beverages and Tobacco (ABT) that rescind notices of noncompliance with the state's alcoholic beverage laws that were issued by the agency last month.

The notices of noncompliance alleged that herbal tinctures are alcoholic beverages and therefore subject to the state's alcoholic beverage controls. The notices stated that continued sale of tinctures could result in criminal or civil charges being filed against the retailer, and retailers therefore removed these products from their store shelves.

The relevant Florida law, however, defines alcoholic beverages to exclude proprietary and other products that are "unfit for beverage purposes." Most herbal tinctures have long been considered under federal alcohol tax rules to be non-beverage products that are unfit for beverage use.

In response to these enforcement actions, AHPA issued a communication to its members to express its view that the warnings represented a misunderstanding of the relevant Florida law. In addition, AHPA counsel contacted Florida ABT to seek clarification that herbal tinctures generally are not suitable for beverage use and should therefore be recognized as exempt from ABT jurisdiction.

"The charge that ABT made that retailers violated Florida law by selling herbal tinctures without a current valid alcohol beverage license was obviously a misinterpretation of Florida's ABT laws," noted AHPA's counsel, Tony Young of Kleinfeld, Kaplan & Becker LLP. "AHPA's prompt response and the Florida ABT's willingness to recognize this misunderstanding and correct it led to rapid resolution of this issue."


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