Tax stamps for drugs
make no sense

I found the article about Iowa's drug tax stamp ("Cleaned Out" Jan. 7) to be of particular interest, because a similar law in Montana was held to be an unconstitutional violation of the double jeopardy clause by the U.S. Supreme Court in 1994 (Department of Revenue of Montana v. Kurth Ranch).
    Comparing Montana's drug tax to alcohol and cigarette taxes, the Supreme Court noted, "These justifications vanish when the taxed activity is completely forbidden, for the legitimate revenue-raising purpose that might support such a tax could easily be equally well served by increasing the fine imposed upon conviction."
    Specifically, the court said, "A tax on 'possession' of goods ... the taxpayer never lawfully possessed has an umistakable punitive character." You might think that was the end of Iowa's drug tax stamp, but think again.
    In 1995, the Iowa Supreme Court distinguished Iowa's drug tax stamp law, saying, "Unlike the Montana tax, the imposition of the Iowa tax is ... not conditioned on the commission of a crime." (State v. Lange).
    In other words, because Iowa's tax is due and payable at the time of acquisition, and not at the time of arrest, it's not conditioned on the commission of a crime.  Pay attention here.  The Iowa Supreme Court says you're not a criminal unless you get caught, a novel concept, to say the least.
    God only knows when the courts will straighten this mess out.   Under normal circumstances, you'd expect common sense to prevail.  However, when it comes to the drug war, don't look for common sense.  After all, it's a war, isn't it?

Carl E. Olsen
Des Moines

February 4, 1998, Page 3
fax 515-288-0309