Arizona Judge Finds Prosecution for Marijuana After Defendant Purchased Tax Stamps To Be Double Jeopardy
An Arizona judge threw out a case in which a man who bought marijuana tax stamps from the state Department of Revenue and was later prosecuted for possession of marijuana, finding the prosecution violated the U.S. Constitution's Fifth Amendment Double Jeopardy protection (State v. Wilson, No. 95-02094 (Northwest Phoenix Justice Court, November 1, 1995)).
Peter Wilson, chairman of the Arizona chapter of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML), purchased a license to sell marijuana and $10/ounce tax stamps from the Arizona Department of Revenue. He was later arrested for marijuana possession.
Judge John R. Barclay of the Northwest Phoenix Justice Court noted the strange situation of the government's outlawing marijuana possession and then selling stamps legitimizing possession. The issue, he said, was whether the two laws, while not in conflict, "created an abuse if not a confusing paradox." He found that the legislature intended the tax to be punitive, and to prosecute Wilson for possession of marijuana would punish him twice. The state legislature passed the marijuana tax provisions into law in 1983 to raise money for anti-drug programs.
Members of Arizona NORML say they expect the state legislature to take up the matter when it comes back into session in January. The government is appealing the ruling.
[For more information about this ruling, contact Arizona NORML (AZ4NORML) at P.O. Box 5043, Phoenix, AZ, 85076, 602-921-2724. If you would like a copy of the ruling, contact the NewsBriefs office.]