NC law says you must pay a tax on your illegal drugs — but that won’t make them legal

North Carolina news
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WILMINGTON, N.C. (WECT) -Did you know people are supposed to pay taxes on their illegal drugs?

The unauthorized substances tax is an excise tax on controlled substances like marijuana, cocaine and illegal liquors. According to the North Carolina Department of Revenue, its purpose is to generate money for state and local law enforcement agencies. The state statute says 75 percent of the money goes to the agency who led to the assessment and the other 25 percent is credited to the general fund.

The tax is due by anyone who possesses a substance that doesn’t have a stamp on it, indicating the tax has been paid.

Paying the bill and attaching the stamp to the drugs doesn’t make the product legal, but it does fulfill the person’s tax obligation to the state of North Carolina. Taxpayers have 48 hours to pay up after having the items in their possession; not paying the tax in time could mean a 40 percent penalty.

Every local and state law enforcement agency also has a time limit and must report to the Department of Revenue within 48 hours after seizing an unauthorized substance or arresting an individual in possession of an illegal substance without a stamp.

The state actually has a special program where people can anonymously buy stamps for their drugs. The NCDR wont call police either if you pay the tax. The law mandates the information must be kept confidential. In fact, anyone who divulges information to police would be charged with a class one misdemeanor.

The Department of Revenue’s website actually lists price points for each illegal drug. For example, the tax rate on marijuana is $3.50 a gram while a gram of cocaine is taxed at $50 a gram. Taxes on illegal beverages range from $12.80 to $31 a gallon.

In the whole state, law enforcement has collected more than $63 million since 2010.

Law enforcement agencies in New Hanover County alone have collected more than $500,000 in the last three years from people who were caught with an illegal substance without a stamp.

Since 1990, the DOR says it has received 315 orders from people purchasing illegal substance stamps and collected about $35,600.

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