Colorado Taxed Cannabis!


In 1988 the Colorado Legislature passed HB-1167 which levied a tax on the possession of marijuana and other drugs:

"H.B. 1167 Controlled substances tax - stamps - exemptions.  Levies a $10 tax per ounce on the possession of marihuana.  Levies a $1,000 tax per ounce on the possession of controlled substance.  Specifies that payment of such tax shall be evidenced by affixing stamps to packages containing marihuana or controlled substances.  Imposes a monetary penalty upon any person who is in possession of an unstamped package containing marihuana or controlled substances in the amount of ten times the amount of tax owed.  Exempts from tax persons otherwise lawfully in possession of marihuana or controlled substances.
BECAME LAW without Governor's signature EFFECTIVE April 29, 1989."  

Courtesy of Colorado Office of Legislative Legal Services

editor's note: the Digest of Bills seems to have some details wrong.  The tax was $100 per ounce for marijuana.

Editor's note 2: The full bill:

Former State Representative Jerry Kopel wrote in The Colorado Statesman that "The first stamp was purchased by The Post’s Woody Paige, who then made back the $100 cost by writing a column about his venture. And that first sale didn’t happen until the third day of availability."

This blogger contacted Woody Paige to learn the whereabouts of the stamp and he told me it was donated to the Colorado History Museum.  The museum moved about 6 months ago and it took a few months for the excellent staff to dig up the stamp and get it digitized:

Image Courtesy, History Colorado, Scan #10040951 "Marijuana tax stamp" accession number 89.645.1
This image published in accordance with the Collection Use Conditions of History Colorado.
Images of and from History Colorado collections must be obtained from History Colorado or with its written permission.


Punitive taxes like these were passed in a wave of late-1980's "stick-it-to-them" drug-war hysteria.  Written to try to offset the skyrocketing costs of waging the war-on-drugs, it wasn't until the 1994 Supreme Court decision "Montana v. Kurth Ranch" that these laws were declared an unconstitutional violation of double jeopardy.  At the time, 26 or more states had implemented a "dangerous drug tax".

Linda Greenhouse with the New York Times reported on June 7, 1994 that "The 5-4 (Supreme court) decision...invalidated a recent and increasingly popular state tactic in the war on drugs, a "dangerous drug tax" that is typically imposed only on those charged with or convicted of narcotics offenses."

The Colorado tax was repealed with Senate Bill 96-133

Concerning the imposition of monetary charges relating to controlled substances, and, in connection therewith, increasing the surcharge imposed on drug offenders and repealing the controlled substances tax.