Bad Bills: Drug Tax Dies in Virginia Legislature

A bill that would have required anyone possessing an illegal drug to get a tax stamp within 48 hours and affix that stamp to the drugs has died a timely death in the Virginia legislature. House Bill 2754, introduced by Delegate Robert Hurt (R-Chatham), was killed in House finance subcommittee on Tuesday.

https://stopthedrugwar.org/files/texasdrugtaxstamp.jpg
Texas drug tax stamp, auctioned on ebay
Under the proposed bill, marijuana would have been taxed at the rate of $0.40 per gram for marijuana, $50 a gram for cocaine, $200 a gram for other controlled substances, and $20 a gallon for moonshine. But the tax would not be imposed on the first 1 ½ ounces of marijuana or the first quarter-ounce of hard drugs.

The Department of Taxation, which would have issued the tax stamps, would not have required identification from the stamp taxpayer, thus precluding criminal prosecution. But the tax could be applied to any substances seized by police and the bill sent to the drugs' possessor.

Delegate Hunt portrayed the measure as an effort to go after drug dealers, saying it was a "civil tax imposed upon those who require government services and aren't paying their fair share." Dealers should ante up, Hunt argued. "The big picture is that drug traffickers put a huge burden on all the rest of us who are law-abiding taxpayers," Hurt said. "This is simply to make them share in those costs."

Opponents of the bill, including Lennice Werth of Virginians Against Drug Violence and Michael Krawitz of Virginia NORML advanced unique arguments to thwart the bill. Krawitz told legislators the bill did not address the substance abuse at the root of the drug traffic and that the state would send a mixed message by profiting from criminal activity, while Werth warned that passage of the bill could lead people to think that drugs were now legal in Virginia.

"These stamps would be bought by collectors, they would be put on the Internet, they would be on eBay, and people all over the country would believe that these drugs are legal in Virginia if you pay this tax," Werth said.

Some 20 states have drug tax laws on the books, but they are unevenly enforced.

Permission to Reprint: This article is licensed under a modified Creative Commons Attribution license.
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Tax Stamps?

Where in the hell in their asses do they pull these ideas from?

That would constitute legalization.

What an awesome idea, why would NORML oppose a measure like that as opposed to criminal prosecution?

It would not constitute legalization

Tax stamps do not make the drugs legal. The drugs remain illegal, but in addition to the criminal penalties already in place if you use drugs, you'd also have to pay a tax. It's just another penalty on drug users. If you don't pay the tax and don't have the stamp on your marijuana when you're arrested, you'd then be charged with tax evasion.

This was a bad, bad, bad bill and was rightfully opposed by NORML and other drug reform groups.

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