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.
House 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.
Now. 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.