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Tennessee Drug Tax Stamp

A reader sent me a scan of the Tennessee Department of Revenue Unauthorized Substances Stamp (note: Background on Tennessee’s Illegal Drug Tax can be found here). Here it is:

It has a what I assume is a serial number. I also assume that means this is only the 127th one they sold. It costs the reader $0.50 and a price list can be found here.

I think I may use this as the logo on my AR15 Lower receivers since I only received three entries in my contest (David, Tom, and Cube). Maybe not, that’s probably illegal. Guess none of the readers are photoshoppers.

Update: Say, I wonder if that serial number is tied to anything that could later be used to identify the purchaser? Maybe the security system cameras?

Update 2: Huh?

Tennessee’s unauthorized substances tax has generated more than $600,000 in collections and $15 million in assessments since it took effect Jan. 1.

I assume by collections they mean property seized without due process. Because $600K divided by 127 is about $4,700 per stamp. That is, of course, assuming that the stamps are sequentially issued.

Update 3: The Tennessee Center for Policy research disagrees. A press release I got states:

On the heels of a report released by the Tennessee Center for Policy Research (TCPR) finding Tennessee’s Unauthorized Substances Tax (UST) cost taxpayers nearly $1.5 million more than it has generated in revenue, the Tennessee Department of Revenue today issued a news release defending the disastrous program.

In the news release, Tennessee’s Revenue Commissioner Loren L. Chumley claims, “The department has been successful in its first six months of administering, assessing and collecting this new tax.” The Department of Revenue also boasts that the UST has generated “more than half a million dollars in (its) first six months.” The press release fails to mention that the tax has generated barely one-third of the $1.8 million it was projected to produce over the first half of the year.

This year, the Department of Revenue has assessed $15 million in tax penalties for drugs and alcohol on which taxes were not paid. However, the state has collected only $606,687 of that amount through property seized and fines levied resulting from drug busts. Since 75% of the fines collected as a result of the UST are returned to the local law enforcement agencies that make the drug arrest, the tax has generated only $151,672 in revenue for the state.

The cost of implementing the tax and operating the bureaucracy necessary to administer the tax over the same period reached $1.58 million.

“Only in Tennessee’s wasteful state government can a tax actually cost more to administer than it generates in revenue and still be called a success,” said TCPR president Drew Johnson.

The UST also has troubling Constitutional implications for Tennesseans, infringing upon two separate Fifth Amendment protections.

The tax, which was created to generate revenue for the state general fund and state and local law enforcement agencies, requires that individuals in possession of illegal drugs or alcohol pay a tax by purchasing a drug stamp or face severe fines if arrested. Purchasing a drug stamp does not provide immunity from criminal drug possession or trafficking charges.

According to TCPR research fellow Ryan Burleson, “It is quite probable that the UST violates the Constitutional protection against double jeopardy since if a drug offender is required to pay a stamp tax or is subject to extensive fines for lack of a drug stamp at the time of a drug bust, and is also prosecuted for possessing unauthorized substances, there are multiple punishments for one offense.”

“Additionally, although purchasing a drug stamp is done anonymously, getting caught without stamps leads law enforcement agencies to gather extensive information from the drug offender. This sets up Tennessee’s tax code for a second Constitutional violation since that information can be used against the defendant in court, ultimately forcing the defendant to be a witness against himself,” said Burleson. “This is another violation of the Fifth Amendment.”

“Before the state squanders additional taxpayer money funding the administration of this flawed scheme and risks millions of additional dollars by facing the legal challenges sure to rise against the program, the state legislature should repeal the Unauthorized Substances Tax,” said Johnson.

“Given the inadequate results of the UST, repealing the drug tax would not hinder the state’s attempt to address the critical and complex problem of drug use in Tennessee. By repealing the UST, however, the state legislature would go far in proving that the state government is concerned about addressing the issue of illegal drugs and alcohol in a manner in concert with the Constitution and respectful of hard-earned tax dollars.”

In other news, SayUncle is getting press releases.

9 Responses to “Tennessee Drug Tax Stamp”

  1. Marc Says:

    I’ll photoshop it!

  2. SayUncle Says:

    May not want to do that, it could be illegal or something. Forging tax stamps or templates may be a legal no-no.

  3. Marc Says:

    I see, you’d be making printing plates for counterfeiting the tax stamps. Probably not a good idea.

    Re: identifying the purchaser.
    Are they transferrable. You could buy thousands at fifty cents a pop and sell them to “collectors” for a buck.

  4. Xrlq Says:

    I wouldn’t be surprised if merely displaying the image on your site were illegal. If I were you, I’d consult an attorney more knowledgeable than I before continuing to display it. My guess – and it IS a guess – is that it’s OK to display it with the word “copy” or “specimen” (or “Uncly-Wuncly,” or anything else) clearly written across it so that everyone can see what the stamp looks like, but a would-be forger cannot easily make himself a realistic-looking copy simply by printing out the image displayed on your blog.

  5. SayUncle Says:

    Hmm, good point. However, I don’t think one could determine the size of it from the image. And the quality is not real high.

  6. cube Says:

    my guess it would be the same size as the license plate tags.

  7. john Says:

    We had something similar in Illinois. Some smart lawyers had their clients deal with the tax implications first, and then the criminal charges were eventually dismissed by the state supreme court as double jeopardy. Our law didn’t bring in any money either.

  8. SayUncle » Drug tax overturned Says:

    […] I’ve covered the Tennessee tax stamp on illegal drugs for a while. Via the five people who emailed this to me this morning, comes the Tennessean: A Tennessee judge has ruled that a state law requiring drug dealers to pay taxes on their cocaine, marijuana and other illicit drugs is unconstitutional. […]

  9. Bonnaroo Taxman at Ninth Stage Says:

    […] Bonnaroo Taxman Published by Ninth Stage June 15th, 2007 in Taxes, The War on Drugs. If you drive a car, I’ll tax the street, If you try to sit, I’ll tax your seat, If you get too cold, I’ll tax the heat, If you spark a doob, I’ll tax your weed. […]