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At least Breaking Bad's Walter White doesn't have to worry about drug taxes

Heisenberg's final act begins tonight.

Nebraska drug tax stampNo, not the Nobel Prize winning physicist (and hello to all the science nerds who also are tax geeks!), but the alter ego of Walter White, the fictional methamphetamine kingpin in AMC's Breaking Bad series.

This pork pie hat wearing Heisenberg has done a lot a bad, bad things, including murder, in the four television seasons that he's been cooking high-grade meth for Albuquerque's small screen addicts.

But at least the former high school chemistry teacher hasn't violated the state's drug tax law.

New Mexico no longer requires its resident drug dealers to buy tax stamps before they distribute their illicit product.

Tax still required on illegal products: Plenty of other jurisdictions, however, do have such illegal drug tax laws on their books.

NORMAL, the group that lobbies for the legalization of marijuana, lists 20 states and the U.S. territory of Guam that tax wacky tobacky.

Over the years as many as 28 states have required criminals to purchase state-approved tax stamps and affix them to marijuana and other illegal drugs.

28 states that now or once taxed illegal drugsThat number is this week's By the Numbers figure.

You heard correctly. States with these taxes want the sellers of illegal products to come into a state office and buy tax stamps.

And yes, you also are correct in surmising that this is a rarely followed law.

Still, if even a few folks comply, it can mean more money for the states' treasuries.

Before it was declared unconstitutional, Tennessee's co-called crack tax brought the state an additional $3.5 million between 2004 and 2008. A new version of the drug tax went into effect in the Volunteer State this year.

And if the illegal drug purveyors don't follow the law, when they are caught the added charge is tacked on to the more serious drug charges. Drug dealers caught without drug stamps usually have to pay extra fines, creating even more revenue for states.

The drug tax stamp law also is a bit of a fail-safe in case something goes wrong with the distribution allegation.

Remember, Al Capone didn't end up in Alcratraz because of the many heinous crimes he allegedly committed. Scarface went to prison for not paying his federal taxes.

Not a new tax: Taxing illegal drugs is not new in America.

There was a Federal Marijuana Tax Act from 1937 to 1970. It was repealed partly because of concerns about violations of the Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination.

And don't forget the revenuer raids on moonshine stills that are legend in the South.

In fact, North Carolina, home to most of the teams in NASCAR, the sport that originated from those backwoods races, specifically lists homemade liquor among the products requiring tax stamps.

Assorted state illegal drug tax stamps Click thumbnails for a larger view and
see more tax stamp images at Keith White's collection.

States with drug taxes nowadays also are careful to note that the tax office isn't in the drug enforcement business. As the Kansas Department of Revenue states:

"A dealer is not required to give his/her name or address when purchasing stamps and the Department is prohibited from sharing any information relating to the purchase of drug tax stamps with law enforcement or anyone else."

Yeah, drug dealers don't believe it either. But they still must deal with the drug tax stamp laws, either before or after they're caught.

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