Grover Norquist finally has found a tax he likes: a tax on marijuana in states where it's legal.
Norquist — founder of Americans for Tax Reform, the group that pushed congressional Republicans to sign a strong anti-tax pledge — told the National Journal
that a tax on pot does not violate that promise.
"That's not a tax increase. It's legalizing an activity and having the traditional tax applied to it," Norquist said.
He compared it to changes in alcohol regulation, such as when a state legalizes the sale of liquor on Sundays or allows grocery stores to sell beer and wine where they previously didn't.
"When you legalize something and more people do more of it and the government gets more revenue because there's more of it . . . that's not a tax increase," he said. "The tax goes from 100 percent, meaning its illegal, to whatever the tax is."
Last month, Norquist threw his weight behind a congressional effort to allow legal marijuana businesses to get federal tax breaks, joining Republican Rep. Dana Rohrabacher of California and Democratic Rep. Earl Blumenauer of Oregon, both outspoken advocates of drug-policy reform, at a news conference in Washington, reports Politico.
The federal tax code prohibits businesses considered to be involved in drug trafficking from taking basic tax deductions from business expenses, and the two congressmen want that changed.
Norquist maintained it is an issue of tax fairness. "Federal tax code is stepping right into the middle of what are legal, legitimate businesses. The power to tax is the power to destroy," he told reporters.
"The government ought not to be in the business of picking winners and losers through the tax code. It should not be enforcing prohibition through the tax code."
Marijuana advocates hope Norquist's backing will help their cause, even though some have speculated his influence on Capitol Hill may be waning after several Republicans refused to sign his no-new-taxes pledge in December.
"It means we have a conservative stalwart that Republicans in Congress listen to on the correct side of the issue. I've always been confused as to why people think marijuana legalization is a 'liberal' issue, or why Republicans are so shy about supporting it," Dan Riffle, director of federal policies at the Marijuana Policy Project, told Talking Points Memo
"Having Grover on board just further legitimizes our movement, and goes a long way to make taxing and regulating marijuana a viable conversation in Congress."
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