As of today, trying to get your hands on some Cubans will no longer lead to three Dominicans sleeping on your parents’ couch. The Obama Administration has announced that, starting Monday, U.S. citizens who travel to Cuba will no longer be limited to bringing back goods worth up to $400. That previous limit included a $100 cap on tobacco and alcohol, but instead of using special quotas for Cuba, the normal limits on the importation of foreign products for personal use will apply.
This marks the sixth round of amendments to U.S. sanctions on Cuba in the past two years; on the sixth round, President Obama said “let there be rum and cigars!” Per the new rules, American travelers in Cuba will soon be able to bring back as many as 100 cigars and several bottles of rum from the island. Granted, enforcement of the $100 rule dropped significantly when Obama declared detente with Cuba on December 17, 2014. But now it’s official.
This does not mean that Cuban cigars and rum will be sold in the U.S. The new rule only applies to American travelers bringing back these goods for personal use. According to a senior White House official, the changes are intended to “open up space for Cubans to improve their livelihood.” More than 160,000 Americans visited Cuba last year, and that number is expected to double this year, so the lifting of the limits is expected to lead to a huge increase in annual revenue for Cuba, where rum and cigar production is entirely government-run. And the new changes don’t just open the gates for American vices. Cuban-origin pharmaceuticals can now receive U.S. regulatory approval, and new measures have been put in place to make U.S.-Cuba joint medical research easier. So there are some health benefits to the new changes, too.