A little used state law taxing illegal drugs generates little revenue. It does provide leverage for law enforcers dealing with drug dealers.

Failure to affix a tax stamp to a controlled dangerous substance can result in an additional criminal charge as well as a tax lien from the state because proper taxes were not paid on the weight or dosage of the drugs.

But dealers don’t usually buy the stamps and law enforcers rarely find drugs with the stamps affixed.

Claremore Police Department Sergeant Wayne Stinnett says it boils down to economics and threat of arrest.

“The stamp costs $10 for every two grams of marijuana,” Stinnett said. “One ounce equals 28 grams, so the stamp on it would be $280 — $200 more than the current street value of an ounce — for them, it’s just not ‘good for business’ to be out the money of the drug tax stamp.”

According to a financial report from the tax commission concerning taxes and collections for 2003-2004, the state only collected $300 from Controlled Dangerous Substance Tax Stamps. The previous year only saw $40 collected.

Twenty states are listed on the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws Web site, including Oklahoma, as having illegal drug tax stamps. According to the site, “most individuals are unaware that such laws exist in their state; others fear that complying with it will incriminate their behavior.”

Still, County Chief Investigator Darrin Hester said there have been instances of people visiting the Rogers County Courthouse asking to buy the stamps.

“If they are up there asking to buy the stamps, we’ll usually get a call and then we will go talk to the individual,” Hester said. “Sometimes we make an arrest.”

Anytime a tax stamp is actually sold, the money is collected by the Oklahoma Tax Commission. Those funds are then paid monthly by the Commission to the state treasurer and are placed in the Drug Abuse Education Revolving Fund. Once the revenue is placed in that fund, the money is budgeted and expended by the State Board of Education for drug abuse education programs.

“When we prosecute someone for failure to affix (tax stamp), they get five years added to their sentence for it — on top of their sentence for whatever other crimes they were charged with,” Stinnett said.

“In effect, the biggest incentive someone would have for purchasing and affixing the tax stamp would be not to get that five years added to their sentence — in that respect, it may be effective in discouraging dealers from breaking the law.

“It’s really up to the arresting officer whether that charge is included in the booking and then ultimately up to the (District Attorney) whether to file the charge or not,” County Undersheriff Barry Lamb said.

While the county had three major drug busts during 2006, smaller drug busts were typical for the Claremore Police Department, although few of those ever found the usage of the drug tax stamp.

“By and large, we rarely find dealers who have gone to the trouble and expense to purchase the tax stamp for their illegal substances,” said Detective Stinnett. “Our jurisdiction is Claremore and dealers either have to go to Oklahoma City to file for the stamp or have the forms faxed to them here — in my 18 years on the force, I don’t think I’ve ever made an arrest where the perpetrator has bothered to get the tax stamp for their marijuana.”

The same rings true for the Rogers County Sheriff’s Office. Last year’s large trafficking busts netted both pounds of drugs in 2006.

“I have never — for no agency I have ever worked for — busted someone with drugs that had a tax stamp on it,” Lamb said. “One time when I worked (law enforcement) in southwest Oklahoma, I saw a trooper who had brought in a small amount of marijuana that had a tax stamp on it. That’s the only time I’ve ever seen the stamp on drugs.”

Contact Krystal J. Carman

at newsed@swbell.com

or 341-0863.

Contact Tom Fink, at maned@swbell.net or 341-0220.

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