Lawmakers Debate Whether Drug Tax May Snare People

Discussion in 'Marijuana News' started by Superjoint, Mar 5, 2001.

  1. By Mark R. Chellgren, Associated Press
    Source: Courier-Journal

    This isn't the same kind of debate over taxation without representation that prompted some Revolutionary War patriots to board British vessels at Boston and toss crates of tea overboard.
    It isn't the same kind of tea, for that matter.

    This is a debate over taxing drugs -- the illicit kind.

    In 1994 the General Assembly passed the "Marijuana & Controlled Substances Tax Act." Its sponsors said the idea was to get at the heart of the drug trade by making it a financial burden as well as a risk of prison time.

    To that end, the legislature imposed a tax of $1,000 on each marijuana plant; $3.50 for each gram of marijuana -- colloquially known as tea in some circles -- not attached to the plant; $200 per gram of controlled substance and $2,000 on each 50 doses of a controlled substance not sold by weight.

    The tax is due whenever there is possession of a drug and is technically not related to any criminal charges. The statute allows an individual to obtain a tax stamp without revealing anything about his identity.

    Even so, failure to have the tax stamp affixed to the drugs can bring a separate Class C felony.

    Since its creation the tax has brought in a remarkable $394,270.08, according to the Kentucky Revenue Cabinet. There doesn't seem to be any consistency in collecting it, though. In 1996 the total was $201,688; in 1998, $4,135.

    It is paid largely in cases in which the cabinet is told by law enforcement of drug busts. But there are other instances.

    "We get letters saying, 'I'll pay this. Just please don't tell my mother,' " said Revenue Cabinet spokesman Alex Rose. "We get a few stamp collectors. And we get a few people who want to make the drug tax their cause."

    State Rep. Robin Webb, D-Grayson, doesn't want to make the drug tax a cause, but she does want to protect some potentially innocent parties. Webb has legislation pending (it has passed the House) that would levy the tax only in cases in which a person is convicted of a drug offense. As it is, she said, an innocent landowner whose property might contain a few wild hemp plants could find himself hauled before the Revenue Cabinet for a drug tax hearing. In those cases, Webb said, the cabinet usually requires the posting of a bond equal to the potential tax.

    Webb said there are few due-process safeguards. "Any law-enforcement officer can call somebody into the Revenue Cabinet and start this process," she said. "If John Q. Public landowner is not charged with a crime, he is still assessed and has to get a hearing in the matter."

    With the due-process argument, though, comes another legal complication.

    "If they have to be convicted first, then you have double-jeopardy problems," Rose said.

    The Kentucky Supreme Court and the U.S. Supreme Court have both ruled that the statute as it stands now does not seek to penalize people twice for the same offense -- known as double jeopardy.

    A 1994 federal court ruling in a Montana case said drug offenders could not be forced to pay a state tax in addition to criminal penalties; Kentucky's highest court said the Kentucky levy is more tax than punishment.

    But there have also been some consequences that have prompted legislators to reconsider the whole matter. Charles Thomas Jr., a 27-year-old Breathitt County man, got a $1 million bill two years ago from the Revenue Cabinet after Kentucky State Police identified him as being involved with growing 517 marijuana plants on property near where he lived. Thomas said the marijuana was not his and he had nothing to do with it. He has never been convicted of a crime.

    Nevertheless, the cabinet has tried to seize his bank accounts and place liens on his property. The cabinet has more recently relented and allowed him to protest the tax without posting a bond.

    Complete Title: Lawmakers Debate Whether Drug Tax May Snare Innocent People

    Source: Courier-Journal, The (KY)
    Author: Mark R. Chellgren, Associated Press
    Published: March 5, 2001
    Copyright: 2001 The Courier-Journal
    Address: PO Box 740031, Louisville, Ky., 40201-7431
    Fax: (502) 582-4200
  2. Putting a tax on something that is already not only profiteering on crime ,but also another fine example of just how totally screwed up the legal system in the United States really is. If the government wants to make a profit on cannabis trade ,then they should legalize it ,regulate it ,and only then tax it! And yes it is taxation without representation. So there ! :p :p :p :eek: :p :p :p
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