Sunday, February 3, 2008


Spitzer’s Illicit Drug Tax Puzzles Queens Politicians
by Matt Hampton, Assistant Editor (Queens Chronicle)
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Queens lawmakers had some choice words for what might be considered the most unusual cash-generating idea in the governor’s budget proposal: a tax on illegal drugs. “I think it’s an absurd idea,” said state Sen. Frank Padavan of Bellerose. “When you tax something, you assume that it’s legal to have it.”

Padavan was incensed at the idea of taxing illicit drugs, a proposal that’s been dubbed the “Crack Tax,” by its opponents. The tax would essentially be a stamp program, requiring drug dealers to come forward and buy a stamp for any controlled substance, including marijuana and cocaine, with the price increasing depending on the relative street price of the drug. Marijuana stamps would cost $3.50 per gram, while more expensive controlled substance stamps would go for $200 per gram.

“The tax is paid by the dealer, in advance of his or her receipt of the marihuana (sic) or controlled substance,” the proposal states. “Upon receipt of the product, the dealer must affix enough stamps to the packages of marihuana or the controlled substance in order to show the tax has been fully paid.” Dealers who failed to come forward would be fined upon their arrest for evading the tax on their wares. Critics think the likelihood of any drug dealers coming forward is miniscule at best, despite assurances in the phrasing of the law that make information voluntarily gathered by drug-stamp administrators to be inadmissable in court.

“I don’t think it’s a bad idea, I think it’s a strange idea,” said City Councilman Leroy Comrie of St. Albans, laughing a little bit at the thought. “If you’re busting people for drug use and then taxing them, are you quietly saying that drug use is OK? I’m not real clear on how that works.” The proposal draws attention to the 29 other states that have similar controlled substance laws on the books, including North Carolina and Tennessee. If the law were enacted, the budget estimates, the state would stand to earn more than $13 million in fines paid over the next year alone, and more in subsequent years. “I don’t think we should compare New York state with Carolina and Tennessee,” Padavan said. “The revenue is irrelevant when you think of the millions we’re spending in drug treatment and prevention.”

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