Chancellor says Tennessee's tax on illegal drugs unconstitutional

Chancellor says Tennessee's tax on illegal drugs unconstitutional

July 12, 2006

NASHVILLE (WATE/AP) -- A judge in Nashville has thrown out Tennessee's tax on illegal drugs as unconstitutional.

The levy took effect in January of last year and applies to such illicit substances as cocaine, crack, methamphetamine and marijuana. The tax is levied per gram of illegal drugs: $3.50 for marijuana, $50 for cocaine, and $200 for meth and crack cocaine.

Moonshine and other liquor that tax hasn't been paid on are also included.

In the first year-and-a-half of the illegal drug tax, Tennessee has collected nearly $2.7 million in revenue.

Chancellor Richard Dinkins' ruling stopped the state from collecting more than $1 million from Jeremy Robbins, who is one of at least eight people accused of moving two tons of marijuana from Arizona to East Tennessee.

Dinkins found that being required to purchase the stamps for illegal activity violates the defendant's right against self-incrimination and to due process.

In a statement released Wednesday, the Tennessee Center for Policy Research praised the judge's ruling, saying, "The decision is a victory for all Tennesseans who value the United States Constitution and a warning to the Tennessee General Assembly and the Department of Revenue that their days of riding roughshod over the Constitution are coming to a close."

Tennessee is one of at least 23 states requiring tax stamps for illegal drugs.

The law was patterned after a similar one in North Carolina that has so far withstood legal challenge.

Portions copyright 2006 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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