Tax stamps for drugs
I found the article about Iowa's drug tax stamp ("Cleaned Out" Jan. 7) to be of particular interest, because
a similar law in Montana was held to be an unconstitutional violation of the double
jeopardy clause by the U.S. Supreme Court in 1994 (Department of Revenue of Montana v.
make no sense
Comparing Montana's drug tax to alcohol and cigarette taxes, the
Supreme Court noted, "These justifications vanish when the taxed activity is
completely forbidden, for the legitimate revenue-raising purpose that might support such a
tax could easily be equally well served by increasing the fine imposed upon
Specifically, the court said, "A tax on 'possession' of goods ...
the taxpayer never lawfully possessed has an umistakable punitive character." You
might think that was the end of Iowa's drug tax stamp, but think again.
In 1995, the Iowa Supreme Court distinguished Iowa's drug tax stamp
law, saying, "Unlike the Montana tax, the imposition of the Iowa tax is ... not
conditioned on the commission of a crime." (State v. Lange).
In other words, because Iowa's tax is due and payable at the time of
acquisition, and not at the time of arrest, it's not conditioned on the commission of a
crime. Pay attention here. The Iowa Supreme Court says you're not a criminal
unless you get caught, a novel concept, to say the least.
God only knows when the courts will straighten this mess out.
Under normal circumstances, you'd expect common sense to prevail. However, when it
comes to the drug war, don't look for common sense. After all, it's a war, isn't it?
Carl E. Olsen
February 4, 1998, Page 3