Illegal drug tax would take a bite out of crime.

Time is running out on this legislative session, but until it does we still have a substantial pile of bills that may yet become law. One bill that whose purpose eludes me is House Bill 926, sponsored by Rep. Jeff Roorda of Barnhart, Missouri.

mjHouse Bill 926 imposes an excise tax on controlled substances and illicit alcoholic beverages. Just so you get the idea, here’s how it works with a marijuana “dealer,” which is defined as a person who possesses more than thirty-five grams of marijuana, or one or more marijuana plants.

A marijuna “dealer” would be required to pay a tax of $3.50 per gram of marijuana possesed, and $350 per marijuana plant. A gram of marijuana is enough to make two medium sized cigarettes, so that works out to about $35 for 20-pack of marijuana cigarettes. (The tax on cocaine is $50/gram and methamphetamine would be $200/gram).

I know, you have to be thinking, “What clear-headed dope dealer (or user) is going to be stupid enough to come forward and pay taxes on his illegal drug inventory?” Well here is the brilliance of this plan: The “dealer” doesn’t have to give his name or other identifying information. The “dealer” can pay the tax in person or by mail. The Director of Revenue will then issue the appropriate tax stamps which must be immediately affixed to the illegal drugs.

Crime DogNow. Here’s where this bill shows its teeth: If the police should later catch the dealer in possession of the illegal drugs, but not displaying the appropriate tax stamps, the police get to fill out even more forms than they do now. They send the forms to the Director of Revenue, who then sends the “dealer” a bill for the unpaid tax, plus interest and penalties. The bill also creates a five-person “Unauthorized Substance Tax Commission” to oversee the program.

That’s it. I don’t think much of the plan. As an anti-crime measure, its laughable. As a revenue generator, I’m skeptical that any “dealer” will pay in advance. I’m also skeptical that many “dealers” will be paying anything from their jail cells. If it takes in more than the program costs, I’ll be shocked. If you have a better idea, leave a comment.

HB 1189 would restrict baking soda sales.

BLocksNever mind the new crime of motorcycle stunt driving and DNA testing of litterbugs, the prize for the least-thoughtful proposal this session goes to Democratic Rep. Talibdin El-Amin of St. Louis. His House Bill 1189 makes it a crime to sell baking soda except from behind the counter with a log kept of each transaction including the following information:

  1. The name and address of the purchaser;
  2. The amount purchased;
  3. The date of purchase; and
  4. The identity of the sales person

The reason for this law is that ONE of the 1001 uses of baking soda is to make crack cocaine. This is the same thing lawmakers did with pseudo-ephedrine, placing it behind the counter and taking the names and addresses of buyers. That law did place a serious crimp in methamphetamine production.

If that was such a great idea–stay with me here–why not deal the same blow to crack cocaine production by restricting baking soda?

Baking SodaOf course the two situations are hardly alike. Pseudo-ephedrine is a very limited purpose drug. Baking soda has many common household uses. Just ask Arm & Hammer.

Pseudo-ephedrine is used in very small quantities. Presumably law enforcement could run down meth cookers just from examining pseudo-ephedrine sales logs.

But baking soda is everything pseudo-ephedrine is not. It is used in much larger, even massive quantities. Examination of baking soda sales logs (and the resulting search warrants) would turn up WHOLE boxes of baking soda stuck in the corners of refrigerators and being used to deodorize cat boxes. And don’t forget baking soda volcanos. Baking soda is as common as shortening and flour.

This bill just doesn’t cut it. What’s next? Coffee filters? Water? Plastic baggies? These are all items used in the production and sale of crack cocaine.

Rep. El-Amin considers this legislation so urgent that there is an emergency clause requiring enforcement of the new law within thirty days of enactment. Is this a joke? Or just a headline?