Department of Revenue of Mont. v. Kurth Ranch, 511 U.S. 767, 4 (1994)

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Opinion of the Court


Montana's Dangerous Drug Tax Act 2 took effect on October 1, 1987. The Act imposes a tax "on the possession and storage of dangerous drugs," 3 Mont. Code Ann. 15-25-111 (1987), and expressly provides that the tax is to be "collected only after any state or federal fines or forfeitures have been satisfied." 15-25-111(3). The tax is either 10 percent of the assessed market value of the drugs as determined by the Montana Department of Revenue (DOR) or a specified amount depending on the drug ($100 per ounce for marijuana, for example, and $250 per ounce for hashish), whichever is greater. 15-25-111(2). The Act directs the state treasurer to allocate the tax proceeds to special funds to support "youth evaluation" and "chemical abuse" programs and "to enforce the drug laws." 15-25-121, 15-25-122.4

In addition to imposing reporting responsibilities on law enforcement agencies,5 the Act also authorizes the DOR to

2 Mont. Code Ann. 15-25-101 through 15-25-123 (1987). See In re Kurth Ranch, 145 B. R. 61, 66 (Bkrtcy. Ct. Mont. 1990). We refer throughout this opinion to the 1987 edition of the Montana Code—the version in effect at the time of the Kurths' arrest. Some sections of the Dangerous Drug Tax Act have since been amended.

3 The Act defines "dangerous drug" as that term is defined in the Montana Code provisions that criminalize the possession of such drugs, see Mont. Code Ann. 15-25-103(2), 50-32-101(6), 45-9-102 (1987), and authorize their seizure, see 44-12-103.

4 According to the Act's preamble, the Montana Legislature recognizes that the use of dangerous drugs is not acceptable, but concludes that because the manufacturing and sale of such drugs has an economic impact on the State, "it is appropriate that some of the revenue generated by this tax be devoted to continuing investigative efforts directed toward the identification, arrest, and prosecution of individuals involved in conducting illegal continuing criminal enterprises that affect the distribution of dangerous drugs in Montana." 1987 Mont. Laws, ch. 563, p. 1416.

5 Section 5(1) of the Act provides that "[a]ll law enforcement personnel and peace officers shall promptly report each person subject to the tax to the department, together with such other information which the depart-

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