Seeks To Bar Washington State From Collecting Pot Taxes
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[May 10, 2014]
By Jonathan Kaminsky
OLYMPIA, Washington (Reuters) - A federal
lawsuit filed this week challenges Washington state's ability to tax
marijuana sales given the drug's illegal status under federal law.
The suit was filed on Thursday by a medical marijuana producer who
is both under prosecution for the criminal sale of pot and facing
demands from state officials that he pay taxes on those sales.
The suit claims that forcing Martin Nickerson to pay more than
$62,000 in taxes would violate his constitutional right against
self-incrimination. It also questions whether federal laws preempts
the state from collecting taxes on pot.
Nickerson's attorney, Douglas Hiatt, is a longtime Seattle-area
marijuana activist who opposed the successful 2012 effort to
legalize the drug in Washington state.
Hiatt, who did not return messages seeking comment, has said that
meaningful marijuana reforms must flow from erasing existing pot
laws that criminalize the drug's production, sale and use.
In 2012, voters in Washington state and Colorado became the first to
legalize adult recreational use of the drug. More than 20 U.S.
states have approved medical marijuana on a broad basis and others
on a narrower basis, according to the National Conference of State
Minnesota state Representatives on Friday approved a bill that would
establish an observational research study to make medical marijuana
available in liquid or pill form to certain patients.
Colorado and Washington state have fed the momentum for pot
liberalization efforts elsewhere. A legalization measure is set to
go before Alaska voters in November while activists in Oregon are
collecting signatures for a similar initiative on the November
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The U.S. Department of Justice announced in August that it would not
interfere with state efforts to regulate and tax marijuana provided
they're able to meet a set of requirements that include keeping it
away from children and restricting its flow into other states.
Alison Holcomb, an attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union
who was the main author of Washington state's successful ballot
initiative, said the suit is a long-shot effort to take down the
state's legal pot system.
Suppliers in Washington state's recreational pot market have already
made public their intent to break federal law, Holcomb said, so
paying taxes on their proceeds would not do much to further
"Paying taxes on marijuana implicates you, but so does everything
else about being engaged in this system," she said.
(Reporting by Jonathan Kaminsky; Editing by Mary Wisniewski and Ken
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