In the last couple of days, I’ve heard from several people regarding this Kansas revenue page on drug tax stamps.
This isn’t particularly new – 23 states have similar stupid laws (and Kansas has had theirs for 18 years). So I’m recycling a post from December when Missouri was considering such a tax:
Missouri Senator Proposes Taxing Illegal Drugs.
Each gram of marijuana would be subject to a $3.50 tax.æ Other controlled substances would be taxed $200 for each gram or portion of a gram.æ For drugs not sold by weight, such as Ecstasy, every 50 doses would be taxed $2,000.
Note: for those of you who haven’t converted to metric yet, for marijuana that’s about $100 tax per ounce.
Keep in mind that this is not an easing of penalties — it is adding an additional penalty on top of criminalizing drugs. The idea is, once you’re arrested for possession of drugs, not only do you get the jail time and fines for the charge, but they also go after you for tax evasion because you probably haven’t bought the stamps (they don’t really expect you to).
A similar bill was passed in Kansas in 1987.æ Last year it collected $883,846 in revenue from people arrested in possession of drugs without stamps and $370 in stamp sales.
Most drug tax stamps are purchased by collectors, not drug dealers (the Texas one is quite entertaining).
These taxes are really a kind of dishonesty on the part of legislatures. If you want a tougher penalty for something illegal, then make that part of the legal penalty — don’t go around looking for some other hook.
Many of these taxes have run into legal trouble. Some of them have been termed unconstitutional due to the prohibition against self-incrimination. Others, if providing a serious enough penalty, have been determined to constitute double jeopardy (some Texas drug dealers in 1996 were getting off of their drug charges in court by putting a deposit down on their tax liability).
Protesters of an Iowa version of this tax came up with the memorable line:
No taxation without legalization.
If anybody has some drug tax stamps (expired is fine) that they no longer need, I’d love to add some to my stamp collection.
Update: I just got from a reliable source that Ben Masel was responsible for the “No Taxation without Legalization” slogan throughout the midwest, including Iowa.
Also, the 7th Circuit recently struck down Wisconsin’s drug tax stamp law as an unconstitutional double jeopardy. See also Vice Squad.