Yesterday, Gov. Scott Walker signed into law A.B. 628, a bill that allows for cities in Wisconsin to punish retailers with licenses to sell tobacco which are found in violation of certain restrictions.
Under old rules, cities would issue tobacco licenses that were valid for one year, but could be revoked if a retailer was found guilty of at least two violations in a 12-month period. These violations were largely centered around selling to minors.
Now, retailers could see their licenses suspended, terminated or not renewed if they are found in violation of a slightly wider set of rules, which include a focus on drugs and prostitution. The new rules are similar to those that already exist for those with licenses to sell alcohol in Wisconsin.
There are now six sets of violations that are grounds for punishment:
- Selling to minors; or violations of other tobacco-related restrictions;
- If the retailer keeps premises that are deemed “disorderly, riotous, indecent, or improper;”
- Fails to maintain proper sanitation standards;
- Permits known criminals or prostitutes to loiter on premises;
- Is convicted of manufacturing, distributing, delivering, or possession with intent to manufacture, distribute or deliver a controlled substance;
- Knowingly allows on premises a person to manufacture, distribute, deliver or possess with the intent to manufacture, distribute or deliver a controlled substance;
Cities will be able to determine which of the three punishment routes a violation could result in. They will have to prove the violations to be true in a hearing and appeals can be made to a local circuit court. Of note, if a retailer is found in violation of selling to minors, but the retailer proves the minor misrepresented their age, they will likely avoid punishment.
A press release from the bills co-sponsors—Rep. Evan Goyke, D-Milwaukee; and Sen. Alberta Darling, R-River Hills—highlighted that the bill was largely targeted at dealing with those with tobacco licenses in Milwaukee who were known to allow those involved with prostitution and the drug-relate offenses on premises, though the law can be invoked by any city in Wisconsin.