In Mississippi, they wanted to call it a levy on unauthorized substances.

In Indiana, it is the controlled substances excise tax.

In Montana, it was called the drug possession tax.

In Oklahoma and North Carolina, it is the illegal drug tax.

In Tennessee, it is simply a windfall.

For states scrounging for ways to put new money into the local budgets, Tennessee's experience is an eye-opener.

Mississippi lawmakers tinkered with the idea this year. The House voted to allow lawmakers to consider a bill to require dealers to buy tax stamps for cocaine or other illegal drugs.

Its purpose? To bring down drug dealers and raise a little cash.

The Senate killed the proposal. Some lawmakers worried that the tax could lead dealers to sue to try to legalize crack, methamphetamine and other drugs.

"You could be promoting corruption with this legislation," said Rep. David Green, D-Gloster.

Rep. Joe Warren, D-Mount Olive, who brought the proposal to the House, said the tax would financially benefit local law enforcement agencies and the state when drug sellers or carriers pay taxes after being caught.

"I don't think we would have to worry about people rushing in and buying a stamp," Warren said.

Such black market taxes are not new to Mississippi. Before liquor was legalized in 1966, Mississippi charged a black market tax on alcoholic beverages.

Now comes the Volunteer State.

This past week, Tennessee officials said the unauthorized substances tax had generated more than $600,000 in collections and $15 million in assessments since it took effect Jan. 1.

Under the law - which some Mississippi lawmakers had hoped to copy - people in possession of illegal drugs in Tennessee must purchase stamps marked with a number to be affixed to packages containing the drugs.

When drugs without the stamp are found, the Tennessee Department of Revenue taxes the alleged drug possessor and gives them an opportunity to pay the tax. If it is not paid, agents may seize and auction off anything of value the person owns.

Tennessee officials said only 184 stamps have been purchased voluntarily so far.

The illegal drug tax is levied per gram - $3.50 for marijuana, $50 for cocaine and $200 for meth and crack cocaine. Three-fourths of the tax revenue is given to the law enforcement agency that investigates the drug offense and the rest goes into Tennessee's general fund.

Such laws have been enacted amid questions of constitutionality. Legal experts have argued such tax laws are criminal penalty lacking in necessary due-process safeguards. Other questions involve forcing drug offenders to pay a tax in addition to their criminal fines - that is, double punishment for the same crime.

Federal and state law enforcement agencies have called Mississippi the "Crossroads of the South" in terms of movement of illegal drugs.

With interstate highways, deepwater and river ports and air and rail systems, lawmen say drugs move from Texas, Mexico and the Gulf of Mexico ports into Mississippi and on the Midwest and the eastern seaboard.

According to federal agencies, cocaine and crack cocaine seizures in Mississippi in 2002 were estimated at 7,169 kilograms. A kilogram is 1,000 grams. Methamphetamine seizures were 4.4 kilograms, and marijuana seizures were 294 kilograms.

Applying the Tennessee illegal drug tax levies, Mississippi's take could have been more than $37 million.

With the growth of methamphetamine over the past three years, the figures could be higher.