The Tennessee tax authorities slapped a young concertgoer with $11,506 in taxes and penalties when he was caught with marijuana-laced Rice Krispie Treats. North Carolina collected $11 million in taxes last year on illegal drugs and moonshine. And in Alabama, the rare drug user who chooses to pay state taxes on a stash is issued a sticker to place on the package that declares, “Say no to marijuana.” Strange as it may seem to levy a tax on a commodity that no one is supposed to have, 29 states have passed laws that impose taxes on illegal drugs and controlled substances, reports the New York Times. This week, Gov. Eliot Spitzer proposed that New York become the 30th.
Across the country, a variety of drug tax laws have sparked legal disputes over issues like the constitutional protection against double jeopardy and the weight of spiked baked goods. The laws have evolved over the past 20 years in response to court challenges. Some were struck down for violating the Fifth Amendment protection against self-incrimination; new laws then specified that taxes could be paid anonymously and that authorities could not report the taxpayers to the police. North Carolina levied taxes so high that a federal appeals court ruled that the state unconstitutionally penalized drug dealers twice for the same crime: with jail and the tax. “It's just a veiled attempt by the government to get these guys to come in and incriminate themselves for possessing drugs,” said one lawyer.