"No taxation without representation" was the rally cry of advocates of American independence in the eighteenth century. Today, tens of thousands of cannabis consumers utter a similar cry over the selective and inappropriate enforcement of illicit drug taxes.
In twenty US states, those who possess cannabis or other illegal drugs are legally required to purchase and affix state-issued stamps onto his or her contraband. The total cost of the tax is generally determined by the quantity of contraband possessed. Unlike typical criminal statutes prohibiting the possession and sale of controlled substances, drug tax stamp laws primarily assess financial penalties on the defendant for noncompliance. On occasion, criminal sanctions may also be imposed.
Although nearly half of all US states have marijuana tax stamp laws on the books, few citizens observe them. Most individuals are unaware that such laws exist in their state; others fear that complying with it will incriminate their behavior. Because of this widespread noncompliance, drug tax stamps – unlike so-called "sin taxes" on alcohol or tobacco – do not collect state tax revenue at the customer's "point of purchase." Rather, the legislative intent of drug tax laws is to impose an additional penalty – tax evasion – upon drug offenders after they are arrested and criminally charged with a drug violation.
In some states such as Georgia, failure to comply with the state tax law may result in a nominal misdemeanor penalty. However, in other states such as Minnesota, failure to comply with the state's drug tax law may result in a defendant facing an additional fine of up to $14,000 and seven years in jail.
See State Tax Stamp Data for the current state penalties for violating marijuana tax laws and additional information regarding a particular state's law.