Most tobacco consumed in the U.S. grows on large commercial farms and sold by a few corporations. However, home growing for personal use is still legal in most areas. Homeowners who wish to plant a few tobacco plants should take the time to learn federal, state and local rules about their crop.
Production and sale of tobacco products is regulated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms. As of 2005, neither of these bodies restricts homeowners from growing their own tobacco, provided that the grower does not sell or trade the crop. Federal law does not restrict quantity, so homeowners can grow as much tobacco as they choose.
Selling or even trading any quantity of homegrown tobacco is much more complex. As soon as a grower sells dried tobacco leaves, cigarettes or any other product, that grower becomes a marketer. According to federal law, all marketers must pay tax on their sales. Penalties for non-payment of taxes can be extremely stiff. While most legal authorities don't prosecute people for selling small quantities, it's still illegal to sell any tobacco without paying the appropriate taxes. Providing tobacco to people under the age of 18 also carries significant penalties.
Local laws regarding gardens and agricultural activities may restrict homeowners' abilities to produce their own tobacco. Homeowners who live in neighborhoods regulated by homeowners' associations may need to get permission to grow any kind of garden, and may have difficulty obtaining this permission for tobacco. Check all city and neighborhood regulations before attempting to grow tobacco plants.
Tobacco-related items such as pipes and rolling papers are legal in all states. However, they are also associated with marijuana smoking, and may be considered drug paraphernalia. Home growers may encounter difficulty obtaining these items, depending on state and local laws.
G.D. Palmer is a freelance writer and illustrator living in Milwaukee, Wis. She has been producing print and Web content for various organizations since 1998 and has been freelancing full-time since 2007. Palmer holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in writing and studio art from Beloit College in Beloit, Wis.