Department of Revenue of Mont. v. Kurth Ranch, 511 U.S. 767, 8 (1994)

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Opinion of the Court

activity." 145 B. R., at 74. After noting that a portion of the assessment resulted in a tax eight times the product's market value,12 the court explained that the punitive character of the tax was evident

"because drug tax laws have historically been regarded as penal in nature, the Montana Act promotes the traditional aims of punishment—retribution and deterrence, the tax applies to behavior which is already a crime, the tax allows for sanctions by restraint of Debtors' property, the tax requires a finding of illegal possession of dangerous drugs and therefore a finding of scienter, the tax will promote elimination of illegal drug possession, and the tax appears excessive in relation to the alternate purpose assigned, especially in the absence of any record developed by the State as to societal costs. Finally, the tax follows arrest for possession of illegal drugs and the tax report is made by law enforcement officers, not the taxpayer, who may or may not sign the report." Id., at 75-76.

These aspects led the court to the "inescapable conclusion" that the drug tax statute's purpose was deterrence and punishment. Id., at 76.

The District Court affirmed. Agreeing with the Bankruptcy Court's findings and reasoning, it concluded that the Montana Dangerous Drug Tax Act "simply punishes the Kurths a second time for the same criminal conduct." In re Kurth Ranch, CV-90-084-GF, 1991 WL 365065 (D. Mont., Apr. 23, 1991) (reprinted at App. to Pet. for Cert. 22). That

12 That portion is the tax imposed upon 100 pounds of "shake." "Shake" refers to the stems, leaves, and other loose parts of the marijuana plant that have less value because of their lower levels of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the chemical substance in marijuana that activates a user's senses. Id., at 66. Officials placed the market value for shake at $200 per pound. Thus, when Montana taxed the shake at $100 per ounce, or $1,600 per pound, it taxed it at eight times its market value. Id., at 72.

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