Drug Policy

Drug-Sniffing Tax Collectors

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One of the constitutional objections to "taxes" on illegal drugs, you may recall, is that they require taxpayers to incriminate themselves. It turns out that's not the only sort of tax that can get drug offenders in trouble:

CORVALLIS, Ore.—A man arrested for an indoor marijuana growing operation after a county worker smelled the illegal plant on a tax payment has been sentenced to 16 months in prison.

Eric Brian Michaelis, 37, also agreed to forfeit more than $65,000 in cash seized after Benton County sheriff's deputies found 230 marijuana plants inside his home in November.

Deputies found almost every room in the house filled with marijuana plants, from seedlings to bushes that were 4 feet tall. The operation included a back-up generator to power the grow lamps in case the electricity went out.

The investigation started when a Benton County tax clerk noticed that the $600 in cash that Michaelis used to pay his taxes smelled like marijuana.

This seems like a situation that could have been avoided through money laundering. Incidentally, while Michaelis' 16-month sentence is too long by about 16 months, in the federal system he would have gone to prison for at least five years, the mandatory minimum for cultivating 100 or more plants.

[Thanks to NORML's Allen St. Pierre for the tip.]

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  1. Ever heard of paying by check or debit card? Gotta be more careful, man.

    Laundering the money probably would’ve helped… as in running it through the washer. Should take the smell of the sticky bud right off the cash.

  2. “the $600 in cash that Michaelis used to pay his taxes smelled like marijuana.”

    Dumbass.

  3. ZINGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGG!

  4. Dude, don’t use bong water to launder money.

  5. This seems like a situation that could have been avoided through money laundering.

    Best Pun Ev-Er

  6. You know, if he had just written a check on the picnic table outside he could have avoided this.

    All jokes aside, I’d like to punch the fucker who smelled the weed on the tax payment in the cock/twat. Not just for reporting the guy, but for being a tax collector.

  7. He must have been growing some serious skunk weed.

  8. I would have thought that Oregonians would be inured to the smell of the reefer.

    He should rubbed patchouli oil on his hands before counting out the bills.

    Maybe not, patchouli scent may count as probable cause, too.

  9. You know what actually happened here. This guy popped up on the cops radar screen. So they broke into his house to see what was what. And lo and behold all that dope. But you can’t go into court with an illegal search and some hearsay. So they went to the judge with this “his money smells like dope” [wink wink] story, and got their warrant.

  10. Gotta Love Oregon…

  11. Warren,

    You’d better hope they didn’t do that, because we’re all coke dealers by that logic.

  12. NY Gov. Spitzer proposed a $3.50 tax on every gram of marijuana, and $200.00 on every gram of cocaine.

    http://cityroom.blogs.nytimes.com/2008/01/23/a-200-a-gram-tax-on-cocaine/

    Apparently this is fairly common practice.

  13. T,
    The innocent have nothing to fear. If the cops think you’re a coke dealer, they’ll break into your house when your not home and look through your sock drawer. If all they find is socks, you’ll never know they were there.

    If they find a big bag of pre-measured “eight balls” then they’ll go to the Dept. of Treasury and ask to see the cash you paid your taxes with.

    If they find pictures of naked children, well then the story gets a little interesting.

  14. If the cops think you’re a coke dealer, they’ll break into your house when your not home and look through your sock drawer.

    I guess when I get home and somebody shot the dog and ate all the donuts, I’ll know to batten down the hatches for the upcoming search warrant.

  15. And that’s why they call it dope.

  16. I would have thought that Oregonians would be inured to the smell of the reefer.

    Heh, no doubt. Even more so when you consider that Corvallis is a very liberal college town where the smell is hardly a rarity. I mean, if you go through the Taco Hell drive through on 9th late at night it would not be surprising to get a few dank bills in change.

    Of course this highlights that even “decriminalized” states with fairly lenient marijuana laws are still a far cry from legalization. The corridor from Seattle through Portland to northern California is supposed to have the highest per-capital levels of use and acceptance of anywhere in the country and yet here in this very accepting college town in the heart of that corridor stuff like this still happens.

    And as for the tax collector, what kind of pathetic, boot-licking busy-body isn’t satisfied with his job confiscating others property but also feels compelled to send someone to jail for growing a few plants. Is sniffing the money rally in this loser’s fucking job description?? I hope his neighbor rats him out for illegally downloading music or something.

  17. “…what kind of pathetic, boot-licking busy-body isn’t satisfied with his job confiscating others property but also feels compelled to send someone to jail for growing a few plants.”

    Just your average nanny state bot, doing its duty for the war on drugs citizens sucking down that government pork paycheck.

    /Bet he or she makes 2x or more of the actual market value of skills plus PERA (Public Employees Retirement Account)

    //being a tax collector is not beyond the skills of a typical office assistant flunkie

  18. @ Brian Courts & zigzag: word. probably someone older who is a true believer in the ‘weed kills / weed=terrorism / gateway drug’ etc nonsense. if this ludicrous story wasn’t made up by police.

  19. There are studies dealing with trace amounts of various drugs on u.s. currency. Depending on the denomination and the year of the bill – – there is a good chance trace amounts of cocaine or whatever will be on that bill.

    Dogs alerting on money is highly problematic during car searches for this very reason. Given the very obvious fact that a dog cant explain to his copper handler whether he is alerting on money, drugs, bombs or a body. (All K-9’s are trained in at least a few multiple substances) – you see many a dog alert for nothing more than having money in your wallet. However, if no drugs are found – there is no arrest – no challenge – no report of it ever happening. Its the ‘ol false positive dilemma. How do get a dog’s accuracy to be 95% or higher? Never report when the dog f’s up and make sure there is no paper trail.

    There are also reports of police cars equipping their cruisers with some type of u.v. scanner or something that they place drivers’ licenses under during every traffic stop/encounter on the street to see if the license has been used to chop up blow or meth or whatever – as has been rumored to happen from time to time. I cant verify this story – may be paranoia. The dog problem is for real – and is becoming more and more relevant post Illinois v. Caballes.

  20. There are also reports of police cars equipping their cruisers with some type of u.v. scanner or something that they place drivers’ licenses under during every traffic stop/encounter on the street to see if the license has been used to chop up blow or meth or whatever – as has been rumored to happen from time to time. I cant verify this story – may be paranoia.

    windycityatty, thanks for the heads up on that. Might be paranoia, but then again, given the ferver of the War on Freedom I wouldn’t be at all surprised. My friend uses her state-issued driver’s license for that purpose as a sort of personal “fuck you” to the state. I was already a bit concerned that police might be able to detect it on your license during a stop so I always use my health insurance card instead. Maybe not as symbolic as a license, but still a little sense of irony…

  21. There is a scanner, but very expensive and just being developed.

    Link:

    http://www.kvoa.com/global/story.asp?s=7154752

    From the article:

    CDEX Inc. has developed a device which can instantly detect trace amounts of the drug.

    Right now it’s being tested in Greenlee County, northeast of Tucson.

    “When you pull the trigger, UV light comes out of the lamps,” says Wade Poteet, the principal scientist behind the scanner.

    In an instant the scanner knows if a substance is meth or not. It detects traces of the drug down to one tenth of one millionth of a gram on clothes, skin, and other surfaces.

    The more you know…

    /I could imagine a situation where painting a prohibitionista’s belongings with “drug residue” would provide comedy gold in the right circimstances.

  22. In an instant the scanner knows if a substance is meth or not. It detects traces of the drug down to one tenth of one millionth of a gram on clothes, skin, and other surfaces.

    Oh wonderful… That is kind of frightening. Just hanging out at a party might get that much on you… not that that would be my real concern. And who are these jackoff scientists selling their souls to develop this kind of weaponry for the police? And, if they’re going to do that, can’t they at least also come up with something far less sensitive and far cheaper that will tell me if the stuff I’m getting is good shit or has been cut all to hell? Now that would be a worthwhile invention.

  23. So. How come some goody-two-shoes working in the tax collectors office even knows what unsmoked pot smells like?

  24. He shouldn’t have broke the law.

  25. He shouldn’t have broke the law.

    Hey y’all hear that? He shouldn’t a done broke the law! Yee-haw!

    For your edification, the past participle of the verb to break is broken, not broke. If you’re going to troll you could trouble yourself to invest the effort to appear at least minimally educated.

    Feeding time is over now; get back in your cage.

  26. “And, if they’re going to do that, can’t they at least also come up with something far less sensitive…”

    No link but, I heard that Dr. Bronner’s soap shows up as ecstasy in police durg testing kits. So the test should actually tell the tester what kind of substance the sample is. Not a balnket, everything is drugs, you are busted.

  27. durg=drug

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