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Lobbyist Money Help  

Stamp tax proposed on illegal drugs

December 15, 2003
By: Kate Amburgey
State Capital Bureau

JEFFERSON CITY - Sen. Charlie Shields, R-St. Joseph, has prefiled a bill targeting the bank accounts of drug dealers in Missouri.

The act requires drug dealers to pay a stamp tax on each gram of illegal drugs in their possession. The stamps would be purchased anonymously and be valid for three months.

Shields says he doubts that dealers would even purchase the stamp should the law pass. And that's the point.

"The idea is not to actually sell the stamps," he said. "But rather to go after the dealers assets when they are caught without a stamp."

The bill targets drug dealers over individual users because the dealers typically have larger assets, Shields says.

Mexican multi-drug trafficking organizations control a large majority of distribution of methamphetamines, cocaine, marijuana, and heroin in Missouri, according to the DEA web site.

Should a person be caught with drugs and without a stamp, the Department of Revenue director can issue a warrant to immediately collect the amount due with an additional charge of 100 percent of the amount previously due.

Each gram of marijuana possessed would be subject to a $3.50 tax and controlled substances would be taxed $200 for each gram or portion of a gram. For drugs not sold by weight, such as Ecstasy, each fifty dosage units would be taxed $2,000.

The revenue from the tax would be divided between the state's general revenue fund and the Missouri Foundation Formula- which distributes aid to Missouri's public schools.

"The bill would not be a huge money raiser for the state, but would allow us to tap into the vast amounts of illegal drug money circulating through the state," Shields said.

A similar bill was passed in Kansas in 1987. Last year they collected $883,846 in revenue from people arrested in possession of drugs without stamps and $370 in stamp sales.

The $370 sold in stamps weren't necessarily bought by drug dealers, Pete Bodyk, operations officer for the Kansas department of alcoholic beverage control.

"A good majority of the stamp sales were from stamp collectors and news organizations," Bodyk said.

There are 23 states who have passed similar laws, according to Allen St. Pierre, executive director of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws or NOMRL.

St. Pierre sees fault in the law because it taxes citizens for drugs that are illegal to possess.

"It provides little to no money for the states and is an abject failure in stopping drug use," St. Pierre said.

The act will be brought before the legislature during the 2004 session that begins Jan. 7.