STATEMENT: Wilmington’s police museum controversy demonstrates need to abolish the North Carolina Drug Tax
Raleigh (Sept 28, 2022) – Earlier this month, the Wilmington City Council approved the Police Department’s request to use $40,000 of its more than $100,000 of unappropriated NC Unauthorized Substance Tax (“NC Drug Tax”) dollars to display its old artifacts. Those opposed to Wilmington Police Department’s proposed ordinance asked that the money instead be used for reinvestment into community initiatives, such as youth programs or reentry services for the vulnerable, under-resourced communities disproportionately impacted by drug enforcement.
The City Council ignored public outcry.
Under the NC Drug Tax, millions of dollars are extracted from minority and low-income communities throughout North Carolina — communities that are routinely over-policed and under-resourced. The recent controversy in Wilmington reflects the inequities of the tax and is an example of why the NC Drug Tax should be abolished.
The NC Drug Tax is an excise tax that requires people in possession of unprescribed drugs and unregulated liquor to purchase tax stamps within 48 hours of possession and place the stamps on the substances. Most people are not aware of the tax and do not purchase stamps. Instead, when found in possession of one of the specified substances without a stamp, individuals must pay back taxes, penalties, and interest. The state collects the debt by taking money from a person’s bank account, seizing and selling their property, or garnishing their wages — in short, destabilizing the person’s life.
The NC Drug Tax Must be Abolished Because
· Every year, more than four thousand people in North Carolina are saddled with thousands of dollars in Drug Tax debt. The average assessed drug tax is $8,872.
· A person can be assessed for the drug tax even if the associated criminal charges are dismissed or result in a “not guilty” verdict by the court.
· The drug tax perversely incentivizes over-policing vulnerable communities because 75 percent of the money collected is given to the law enforcement agency initiating the investigation that led to the tax assessment.
The NC Drug Tax is bad business for communities like Wilmington and bad business for the state. Join the growing number of advocates working to abolish the drug tax. To learn more about the NC Drug Tax, visit www.ncjustice.org/ncdrugtax