Governon Paterson raised quite a stir after he suggested a “fat tax” to raise revenue combat obesity. But that may not be the most controversial local tax measure to make news this December. Rep. Darryl Rouson, a Democrat from St. Petersburg, Florida, has proposed House Bill 99 to add a “surtax of 5 percent” on items described as “drug paraphernalia” under Florida statute.

Florida statute defines drug paraphernalia as “all equipment, products, and materials of any kind which are used, intended for use, or designed for use in planting, propagating, cultivating, growing, harvesting, manufacturing, compounding, converting, producing, processing, preparing, testing, analyzing, packaging, repackaging, storing, containing, concealing, transporting, injecting, ingesting, inhaling, or otherwise introducing into the human body a controlled substance in violation of this chapter or s. 877.111.” The list of what that includes is amazing (see it here) and includes such items as charging bottles, whip its and chillums. Yeah, no idea what any of that means. But they’re on the list.

Rouson’s idea is to require store owners who sell these accessories, which are commonly used in conjunction illegal drugs, to pay more taxes. The money raised will benefit drug addiction programs. The statute as currently written would impose the surtax on those items regardless of whether they are sold for legal purposes. However, Rouson, a former cocaine addict, has indicated that he will amend the bill to exclude drug-free use of common items.

I have to say, I have no idea how this would work in practice. If you buy a bong, I could see where it would be a fairly easy argument. But balloons, tubes, 2-liter-type soda bottles and duct tape? How do you prove that you’re buying those for non-drug purposes? And whose burden would it be to prove the non-drug use: the buyer or the store owner?

It seems like a bad move all the way round. It will indeed be interesting to see how it’s received by other Florida representatives. If it were up to you, would you vote yes or no?

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Kelly Phillips Erb is a tax attorney, tax writer, and podcaster.


  1. Why hasn’t anyone ever proposed a “Windfall Profits Tax” or an “Pharmaaceutical Advertiser’s Tax” on drug manufacturers who have all this spare money to constantly recommend “for YOU to ask YOUR Doctor if it (overpriced product) would be right for you? Screw the “detrimental to further research angle”, greed says it’ll happen anyway.


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