Controlled substances may be illegal, but the government still taxes them.
This Catch-22 in Iowa law is getting many people charged with a Class D felony.
"The law requires that, after a certain amount of controlled substance is obtained - the amount varies depending on the substance - a tax stamp must be adhered to the drug," said Sgt. Luke Fleener, Webster County Sheriff's Department.
Failure to have a drug tax stamp on the controlled substance will result in a charge, in addition to being charged with possession of the illegal substance.
People can get the drug tax stamp at the Iowa Department of Revenue Office in Des Moines or send in a request form.
Paul Benson, manager of taxpayer service, said the stamps can be obtained anonymously to protect the citizen's Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination. The only time he would need a name or address is to send the stamp to them through the mail, he said.
He said, despite the promise of no prosecution for ordering the stamps there have been no tax stamps sold in 2008.
"I've only sold two batches in the past four years," Benson said.
He said people may shy away from getting the stamps because of the price.
"You can only get them if you order at least $215 worth at one time," Benson said. "You can't come in with $5 and get one marijuana tax stamp."
However, if the controlled substance doesn't have a stamp, it may cost the person more than $215. Failure to have a drug tax stamp is a Class D felony punishable with up to five years in prison and a fine of up to $7,500.
Benson said people might buy the stamps and just carry them around instead of putting them on the products.
"They think they can just pull them out if they get caught, but that's not how it works," he said. "The stamps have to be on the substance."
It would be a waste of money not to use the stamps right away because the stamps expire after 6 months, Benson said.
He said the stamps have other uses too.
"Stamp collectors will get together to purchase them sometimes," Benson said. "Or at least, that's what they tell me."
By KATIE WILLIAMS, Messenger staff writer
Posted January 2, 2009