New York Gov. Eliot Spitzer, struggling to close a $4.4 billion budget gap, wants to make drug dealers pay tax on illegal drugs. The new tax would apply to cocaine, heroin, and marijuana, and could be paid with pre-bought “tax stamps” affixed to the bags of dope, reports the Washington Post. Some opponents said that because cocaine and pot would be subject to the new levies, it should be called “the crack-pot tax.” Said Bill Perkins, a state senator from Harlem: “Most of the dealers I’m familiar with are petty crack dealers — most of them are crackheads. They are broke, to say the least. I just don’t understand how you impose a tax” on broke crackheads.
At least 21 states have some tax for illicit drugs; some laws have been challenged in courts, and others have fallen into disuse. Almost all the remaining drug-tax laws are used mainly by local law enforcement agencies as a way to seize drug money and fund counter-narcotics operations. “It was a way of getting tougher on criminals,” said Joseph Henchman of the Tax Foundation, a Washington-based educational group. “It kind of boggles my mind. If you want to get tougher on drug dealers, increase the penalties. It’s just weird to put an excise tax on an illegal substance. When you tax something, it’s a way for the government to say you can have it, but we want a piece of it.  It’s sending a mixed signal.” Allen St. Pierre of NORML, the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, called the drug tax “a wacky idea. It’s a quintessential example of the absurdity of the war on some drugs.”