Pubdate: Wed, 17 Dec 2003
Source: Columbia Missourian (MO)
Copyright: 2003 Columbia Missourian


Stamp Act Would Allow State To Tap Into Drug Money.

JEFFERSON CITY - Sen. Charlie Shields, R-St. Joseph, has pre-filed a bill 
targeting the bank accounts of drug dealers in Missouri.

The act requires drug dealers to pay a stamp tax on each gram of illegal 
drugs in their possession. The stamps would be purchased anonymously and be 
valid for three months.

Shields said he doubts that dealers would even purchase the stamp should 
the law pass. And that's the point.

"The idea is not to actually sell the stamps," he said. "But rather to go 
after the dealers' assets when they are caught without a stamp."

The bill targets drug dealers over individual users because the dealers 
typically have larger assets, Shields said.

Mexican trafficking organizations control a large part of the distribution 
of methamphetamines, cocaine, marijuana and heroin in Missouri, according 
to the DEA web site.

Should a person be caught with drugs and without a stamp, the Department of 
Revenue director can issue a warrant to immediately collect the amount due 
with an additional charge of 100 percent of the amount previously due.

Each gram of marijuana would be subject to a $3.50 tax. Other controlled 
substances would be taxed $200 for each gram or portion of a gram. For 
drugs not sold by weight, such as Ecstasy, every 50 doses would be taxed 

The revenue from the tax would be divided between the state's general 
revenue fund and the Missouri Foundation Formula - which distributes aid to 
Missouri's public schools.

"The bill would not be a huge money raiser for the state but would allow us 
to tap into the vast amounts of illegal drug money circulating through the 
state," Shields said.

A similar bill was passed in Kansas in 1987. Last year it collected 
$883,846 in revenue from people arrested in possession of drugs without 
stamps and $370 in stamp sales.

The $370 sold in stamps weren't necessarily bought by drug dealers, said 
Pete Bodyk, operations officer for the Kansas department of alcoholic 
beverage control.

"A good majority of the stamp sales were from stamp collectors and news 
organizations," Bodyk said.

There are 23 states that have passed similar laws, according to Allen St. 
Pierre, executive director of the National Organization for the Reform of 
Marijuana Laws.

St. Pierre said he sees fault in the law because it taxes citizens for 
drugs that are illegal to possess.

"It provides little to no money for the states and is an abject failure in 
stopping drug use," St. Pierre said.

The act will be brought before the legislature during the 2004 session that 
begins Jan. 7.
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MAP posted-by: Keith Brilhart