Judge Manis of the Fulton County Superior Court has upheld Attorney General Thurbert Baker's determination that Carolina Tobacco Company's "Roger" brand is not eligible to be on Georgia's list of approved tobacco cigarette brands. If a manufacturer or a brand is not on the lists maintained by the Attorney General, those cigarettes cannot be sold in Georgia.
Attorney General Baker is directed under Title 10 of the Georgia Code to set up an internet-based directory of manufacturers and brands that are in good standing with the state. To be on the list, a manufacturer must have sent in required annual certifications and have made all required escrow payments for the sale of their products in Georgia.
Carolina Tobacco Company, an Oregon-based company, sells the "Roger" brand cigarettes. Up until recently, Carolina Tobacco sub-contracted the physical production of "Roger" cigarettes to overseas manufacturers. None of those overseas manufacturers ever filed a certification with the State of Georgia.
The Attorney General issued a 30-day notice of intent to remove Carolina Tobacco as well as the "Roger" brand from the directory because Carolina Tobacco was not the "tobacco product manufacturer" for the "Roger" brand. The state's position is that Carolina Tobacco and the "Roger" brand are not eligible to be on the directory because Carolina Tobacco was not the physical fabricator of "Roger" brand cigarettes. The Attorney General's stand on Carolina Tobacco has been adopted by courts in at least two other states, Ohio and Tennessee, in litigation involving Carolina Tobacco and the "Roger" brand cigarettes. Only the actual physical fabricators of Roger are eligible to be on the directory. Moreover, because those previous manufacturers have never complied with Georgia's certification laws, the Roger brand itself is not eligible to be on the directory under Title 10 of the Georgia Code.
Acting under his administrative review authority under Title 10 as well as the Administrative Procedure Act, Attorney General Baker determined that Carolina Tobacco could not be a "tobacco product manufacturer" because someone else actually made the cigarettes for them. Today's ruling by Judge Manis upholds Attorney General Baker's decision.
As a result of Judge Manis's decision, Attorney General Baker will issue a formal notice that he is removing Carolina Tobacco's flagship "Roger" brand cigarettes from the directory of approved cigarette brands. After the effective date of that removal notice, "Roger" brand cigarettes will be considered contraband under Georgia law and subject to seizure by Georgia Revenue agents in retail outlets.