Missouri Lawmaker Proposes Taxing Illegal Drugs

While the Missouri legislature can barely loosen their collective sphincter to allow the passing of an ultra-restrictive medical marijuana program, one snidely lawmaker is working to ensure the state gets its fair share of the illegal drug trade.

Earlier this month, State Representative Shawn Rhoads submitted a proposal (House Bill 1138) that aims to generate tax revenue from marijuana and other illegal drugs by implementing a hypocritical policy that forces drug dealers to shell out a percentage of their dope proceeds to supplement the state’s coffers.

The goal of this seemingly ridiculous measure is to follow in the footsteps of some 20 states across nation that require members of the black market drug trade to purchase state-issued tax stamps and apply them to their products. This method of financial madness, in turn, holds the proprietors of back alley dope slinging operations responsible for reporting their taxable income to the state.

Interestingly, although many characters of the underground working as amateur pharmaceutical representatives consider this controversial form of taxation a laughable matter, the law can actually come with some serious consequences for the ones who find themselves busted without tax stamps on illegal contraband.

In 2008, The New York Times reported that tax officials in Tennessee penalized a young dealer to the tune of $11,506 after he was caught selling marijuana-infused Rice Krispie Treats at a concert – a small fine in comparison to another dealer busted in the Volunteer State, who was charged $1.1 million for smuggling just over 42 grams of weed without tax stamps.

The cost of staying above the board in the illegal drug game, sometimes referred to as paying the “crack tax,” is a lucrative enterprise for those states that enforce this law. In 2007, North Carolina reportedly collected a whopping $11 million in tax revenue from the sale of controlled substances and black market booze – all from dealers who either purchases tax stamps or got busted not following this bizarre statute.

With that said, it is no wonder Representative Rhoads believes that Missouri could capitalize from establishing a tax stamp code of their own. However, while the prospect of generating millions of dollars for the state without having to establish a legal framework for a marijuana market sounds appealing to some, many others, including law enforcement officials, are skeptical that passing such a law would benefit the state in anyway.

“Typically drug dealers are not the most law abiding citizens,” Cape Girardeau Police Chief Wes Blair told CBS affiliate KFVS-12. “I’m going to assume you’re not going to have a whole lot of them lining up at the tax office.”

Of course, it makes complete sense why people earning a living from the illegal drug trade would be apprehensive about subscribing to the use of tax stamps. Many believe that in doing so they are throwing up an admission of guilt that could set them up for courtroom slaughter in the event of a shakedown. Yet, authorities claim the anonymity of forthright drug dealers is all part of the deal.

“They are not required to give any of their identifying information,” said Blair. “And in fact none the information that they do supply can be used in a criminal prosecution.”

If this bill should find itself signed by Missouri Governor Jay Nixon, the revenue generated from the taxation of illegal drugs across the state would be used to finance drug enforcement and rehab facilities, like the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Abuse, an organization that calls the possibility of such a law “intriguing.”

Show-Me Cannabis, the coalition working to legalize a recreational pot market in Missouri, believes that if money is the motivation behind this bill, the state would be better off legalizing recreational marijuana – an industry that generated $53 million in tax revenue for Colorado during the first year of legal sales.

House Bill 1138 is advancing through the state legislature.

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