Minn. man argues marijuana already legal due to state tax stamp - FOX 10 News | myfoxphoenix.com

Minn. man argues marijuana already legal due to state tax stamp

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ST. CHARLES, Minn. (KMSP) -

The effort to legalize cannabis for Minnesota patients has seen a bumpy road to the Legislature so far this session, but one Minnesota man says the debate over marijuana is already over because a legal tax exists.

Stephen Conlin believes that since the state is already taxing it, it is legal to smoke, sell and buy marijuana. It is true that there is a form to be filled out, but even though it was seen as another way to go after drug dealers for failure to pay taxes, Conlin sees it as a green light to start dealing.

In the small town of St. Charles, a barber shop called "The Buzz" can be found just off Main Street -- but Conlin hopes to offer a lot more than a trim.

"I'm the first lawful dispensary and I'm fighting it in the courts," Conlin said.

Conlin argues that since the Minnesota Department of Revenue issues a stamp for marijuana, it's perfectly legal to sell it. Anyone with more than 42.5 grams of marijuana can buy a stamp anonymously, with the drug taxed at $3.50 per gram.

In the nearly 30 years since the law has been on the books, about $11,000 in stamps have been sold -- most of them to Conlin, who purchased $7,000.

"I bought them with the intention of legally going into the marijuana business," he told Fox 9 News.

It hasn't been easy, however. The local sheriff raided Conlin's home and business a few times, seizing plants, guns and high-grade cannabis with a street value of $85,000. At the time, Conlin was on the ballot for mayor, but he lost the election -- and in court.

"If they collected the tax, there is no crime," Conlin contends.

Yet, the statute specifically states that buying a stamp doesn't grant immunity from criminal prosecution. In fact, the penalty for not paying the tax is far greater -- a fine of up to $14,000 and seven years in jail. Even so, it is extremely rare for someone to be charged with criminal possession and failure to pay the tax; although, the a ruling by the Minnesota Supreme Court found that would not be considered double jeopardy.

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