Missouri groups react to bill that taxes illegal drugs

Missouri groups react to bill that taxes illegal drugs

CAPE GIRARDEAU, MO (KFVS) - Law enforcement officials and pro-marijuana groups are not sold on a Missouri bill looking to cash in on illegal drugs.

House Bill 1138, introduced by Republican Representative Shawn Rhoads, looks to tax drug dealers up front or run the risk of higher penalties if caught.

The drug dealer, of any illegal drug, not just marijuana, would report their taxes payable to the state and receive a stamp.

Cape Girardeau Police Chief Wes Blair is skeptical.

"Typically drug dealers are not the most law abiding citizens," Blair said. "I'm going to assume you're not going to have a whole lot of them lining up at the tax office."

The dealer's information would remain anonymous.

"They are not required to give any of their identifying information," Blair said. "And in fact none the information that they do supply can be used in a criminal prosecution."

It would not legalize drugs like marijuana and methamphetamine, but is aimed at bringing in needed cash.

Other states with similar controlled substance taxes have generated millions in revenue.

Money collected would go toward drug enforcement and drug treatment programs.

Some pro-pot groups like Show-Me Cannabis agree there is money to be made, but don't support the measure.

"There is a lot of money out there but that does require bringing out of the black market and making it a legal substance," Executive Director John Payne said.

Twenty other states already have some form of a drug stamp tax on the books, including Kentucky and Tennessee.

But a 1969 Supreme Court decision found a similar federal law unconstitutional.

"You can't impose a tax in which it is a crime to pay," Payne said.

Even though officers could benefit from the revenue, they worry lawmakers would send the wrong message.

"It almost makes it sound like we're saying 'it's ok to be a drug dealer in the state of Missouri,'" Blair said. "To place a tax on an illegal drug is a little bit ludicrous."

The bill has been referred to the general laws committee.

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