I paid Minnesota taxes on a gram of marijuana

Categories: Crime, Drugs
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The halls of the Minnesota Department of Revenue in St. Paul bustle with form-weary taxpayers. It's late morning as I approach the counter looking to declare possession of a gram of weed.

A blonde receptionist in a black sweater looks at me curiously. She reaches for the phone to alert staff upstairs of my presence. I stay calm and grab an empty seat.

No, I'm not stoned. A little known Minnesota statute has brought me here.

SEE ALSO: When will medical marijuana be legal in Minnesota?

It's Chapter 297D, the Marijuana and Controlled Substance Taxation, and it was passed in 1986 as a way to bolster the prosecution of drug dealers. Failure to pay taxes on marijuana can result in extra penalties of up to $14,000 and seven years in prison.

For a while it worked. In 1991, the Minnesota Department of Revenue raked in an extra $652,000 from sale of the stamps.

By the late aughts, however, marijuana stamps sales had whittled down to zero. Why? No one knows for sure. But it stayed that way until 2012, when suddenly the number spiked to $7,539 -- all thanks to Stephen Conlin, a 53-year-old candidate for St. Charles mayor.

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On Jan. 24, 2012, police raided Conlin's barbershop, the Buzz, and seized hundreds of grams of marijuana and $668 in cash. His defense: marijuana was legal as long as he bought the stamps.

In court, his attorney pointed to inconsistencies in the language of the law, including this curious sentence near the top of the taxation statute:
"Controlled substance" does not include marijuana.
"They handed me a plate full of shit, but nobody seemed to have read the laws to realize that the plate they were handing me was solid gold," Conlin says today. "Everything I did was by the letter of the law."

The court didn't buy it. The taxation statute also makes clear that stamps do not provide immunity from prosecution. Conlin was sentenced to 90 days in jail. He's in the midst of an appeal.

Marijuana tax stamps are required in 20 states, according to NORML, though others have found the laws unconstitutional. The constitutionality of Minnesota's own law was upheld in a 1988 case involving William Sisson. He argued that his right of due process had been violated after authorities seized his car, trailer and lawn tractor in lieu of controlled substance taxes and penalties.



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17 comments
Jeannette Kjos
Jeannette Kjos

Correct me if I'm wrong, but the author paid the tax so none of Sherri's tax money was used for drugs, right?

Chris Havranek
Chris Havranek

But if Sherri gets her way then my tax dollars will be paying for things I don't support. I guess everyone just can't get their way. Good thing majority rules is the standard.

Sherri Cerney Morse
Sherri Cerney Morse

Ridiculous- where are the values in this country? My money and taxes should never support something I am against. Whether it is drugs or killing innocent life. People need to be vocal and protect the values we hold dear or they will be lost in this significant moral decline the US is currently calling the norm.

vitajex
vitajex

Sucker!

Four years ago, I figured out how to deduct my 'recreational substance' expenditures on my taxes so that I have the government PAY ME to get the munchies.

It's actually pretty easy to do and the only problem now is that I am legally required to stand in front of a group of people and read from a really old book while wearing unusual clothing a minimum of once a week.

I have no clue who this Cthuhlu fellow is but he gets me buzzed for free so I guess...

'Cthulhu is just alright with me

Cthulhu's is just alright- oh, yeah!'

digitalprotocol
digitalprotocol topcommenter

hmm this is interesting. prob could have been written better as im not sure what i just read.


sounds like another fucking scam

peterjasonmn
peterjasonmn

Sweet, so I can dictate that none of my tax money paid in (for which I am still recovering from a sore b-hole) should go to pay our shithead politicians from both sides of the aisle, no more supporting the Chicago Express up here for the betta life, and no more having to fund anything involving children.  Sweeeeeeeeeeeeet!!!

mingtran
mingtran topcommenter

You don't know much about counter culture for being such a supposed counter cultural icon.

It is a scam. They can still bust you

digitalprotocol
digitalprotocol topcommenter

@mingtran this is about stamp collecting and govt plots not counter culture you goon!

digitalprotocol
digitalprotocol topcommenter

@mingtran we all operate in the same realm you fucking tool. i am at work entertaining myself - i could care less what you have to say


this is a selfish game i play, so leave me alone

mingtran
mingtran topcommenter

You show day in and day out you live in their world. If you didn't live in their world, you never would have responded back to me in the first place.

Don't fuck with vastly superior beings. Observe them young learner

mingtran
mingtran topcommenter

Riiiigggghhht.... Because marijuana isn't counter culture. Neither is knowing little known info they don't really want you to know. Why even respond back?

mingtran
mingtran topcommenter

You said it "sounds like a scam". I said "it is a scam". Get it?

Sometimes you're funny or observant, but you're not smart enough for me to parrot.

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