A 1983 law allowing individuals to attain licenses from the state to deal in and pay taxes on cannabis is under fire from state officials who argue that the legislation is tantamount to legalizing marijuana. Recently, a bill introduced by Rep. Scott Bungaard (R-Glendale) calling for the repeal of Arizona’s tax stamp legislation was approved in the Senate Government Reform Committee by a 6-1 vote. The bill (H2367) now moves to the full Senate.
According to Committee Chairman Stan Barnes, 55 people signed up to testify in opposition to Bungaard’s amendment, including Arizona NORML President Peter Wilson. Wilson ignited the stamp tax controversy this past November when Northwest Phoenix Justice Court Judge John Barclay dismissed marijuana possession charges against him because of evidence that he is licensed by the state to sell cannabis. Basing his decision on constitutional prohibitions against double jeopardy, Judge Barclay concluded that Wilson could not be prosecuted because of (punitive) taxes he had previously paid to the Arizona department of revenue to sell and possess cannabis.
“I think by possessing a license and paying the tax, you show an attitude that is different than a criminal attitude,” said Wilson’s attorney and NORML Legal Committee member, Michael Walz, speaking in favor of maintaining the current legislation. “What you have is a county attorney saying on the record he is 100 percent confident [Mr. Wilson’s case] will be reversed on appeal. If that is really true, then there is no reason for this legislation. And in fact, what it does is deprive the state of Arizona of, potentially, millions of dollars in revenue.”
“The license and tax requirements were never intended to decriminalize the sale of marijuana,” countered Rep. Bungaard. “I want to send a clear message that drug use of any kind in this state is illegal and unacceptable.”
Despite the recent momentum to repeal the tax stamp legislation, AZ4NORML member Bill Green doubts Bungaard’s measure will pass this year. “If by some chance it gets passed without us noticing, we plan to file a referendum with the Secretary of State. We will bill it as a protest vote for legal marijuana.”
For more information, please contact AZ4NORML at (602) 395-0353. The organization can also be accessed on the Internet at: http://www.amug.org/~az4norml