Illinois Supreme Court Finds Cannabis Tax Stamps Unconstitutional

The Illinois Supreme Court has declared that the application of the state’s Cannabis and Controlled Substances Tax Act in the case a defendant who had previously plead guilty to drug possession charges constitutes double jeopardy under the United States Constitution. This decision follows closely on the heels of similar rulings reached by both an Arizona trial court and the Indiana Supreme Court.

Writing the opinion of the court, Justice Harrison rejected The state’s argument that the application of the Illinois act is not contingent upon commission of a crime. “Under the Act, the only persons liable for the tax are ‘dealers,'” the justice writes. “[T]o be a ‘dealer’ within the meaning of the statute, one must have carried out certain enumerated acts ‘in violation of the Illinois Controlled Substances Act or the Cannabis Control Act,’ both of which are criminal statutes. [Hence,] by the terms of the Act, criminal conduct is a prerequisite to tax liability. …”

… [Consequently,] because the Department of Revenue cannot determine whether a person is a ‘dealer’ subject to the tax unless and until that person had been found guilty of the underlying criminal offense, the Cannabis and Controlled Substances Tax Act not only assumes that a crime has been committed, it also presupposes that the offending party has been arrested, charged and convicted. In this regard, the act … [is] a form of punishment for double jeopardy.”

For more information on this case, please refer to Docket No. 77708 (Keith Robert Wilson v. The Department Of Revenue), filed February 15, 1996. For more information on cannabis tax stamps, please contact Allen St. Pierre of NORML at (202) 483-5500.