Court clears way for tax on roll-your-own cigarettes

OLYMPIA — The cost of roll your own cigarettes is going up Sunday when the state begins imposing a new tax on the handcrafted product.

A state Supreme Court commissioner cleared the way late Friday when he concluded that opponents of the tax failed to comply with terms of an injunction blocking its collection by the state.

Franklin County Superior Court Judge Bruce Spanner granted the injunction contingent on those fighting the tax posting a $200,000 bond to ensure the state’s interests are protected should it ultimately prevail.

Those plaintiffs, who include the owner of a store that provides machines for people to roll their own cigarettes and a customer, didn’t put up the money.

On Friday, Deputy Commissioner Walter Burton issued a temporary stay on the injunction. It will be in effect until July 10 when a decision on extending it will be made.

That means starting Sunday retailers operating cigarette-making machines must place cigarette tax stamps on the products. This will add roughly 15 cents to the price of each cigarette.

The Supreme Court is expected to eventually settle the question of whether the validity of this tax, which was approved in April by a bipartisan majority of state lawmakers.

Supporters contended it is not a new tax but an extension of an existing one and ensures those rolling their own cigarettes pay the same amount of tax as those who buy packaged smokes.

Opponents argued it is a new tax. They contend that under the voter-approved Initiative 1053 it required approval by a two-thirds majority in both the House of Representatives and the Senate.

It did not meet that requirement in the Senate and should be disallowed, they argued in winning the initial injunction.

Jerry Cornfield: 360-352-8623; jcornfield@heraldnet.com

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