“Louisiana received about $1,900 in revenue [last year] and the market is actually stamp collectors. I don’t know that they’ve even recouped the price of printing all the stamps yet.”
By Piper Hutchinson, LA Illuminator
A Louisiana House committee voted down a bill Monday that would have repealed a little-used and little-enforced tax on the sale of illegal marijuana.
House Bill 492, sponsored by Rep. Joe Marino (I) would have abolished a program that required dealers to buy stamps to place on every parcel of illegal marijuana sold.
The bill was killed in the House Committee on Ways and Means on a 6-7 vote, with Republican Reps. Ryan Bourriaque, Jeremy LaCombe, and Joseph Orgeron joining Democrats in supporting the bill.
The state Department of Revenue, which administers the program, is still using its first run of the stamps dating back to the start of the program in 1990, Marino said. He came to the committee meeting with a book of the stamps, which were numbered in the 9000s, suggesting that relatively few have been sold.
“Louisiana received about $1,900 in revenue [last year] and the market is actually stamp collectors,” Marino said. “I don’t know that they’ve even recouped the price of printing all the stamps yet.”
The stamps cost $3.50 each and dealers are required to put one stamp on each gram of marijuana sold, which comes out to a nearly $100 tax on each ounce.
Marino is a criminal defense attorney who has practiced law for 31 years. In that time, he said he’s probably handled thousands of marijuana cases and has never come across a case in which the alleged dealer used the stamps or was prosecuted for not using the stamps.
The bill was opposed by the Louisiana Sheriffs’ Association, who did not appear Monday to testify against it.
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Rep. Les Farnum (R) raised concerns that the sheriffs’ association opposed the bill because it would limit law enforcement’s ability to crack down on drug crime.
“Does [the stamp program] give ‘em another tool to drive the hammer a little deeper?” Farnum asked.
Marino told Farnum he could not explain why sheriffs opposed the bill but said he wished they had come to the hearing to outline their opposition.
In an interview after the hearing, Marino said he suspected the association opposed the bill merely because it had to do with marijuana.
A representative of the Louisiana Sheriffs’ Association has not yet responded to a request for comment.