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THE MARIHUANA TAX ACT OF 1937

Harry Anslinger, U.S. Commissioner of Narcotics (testifying in 1937 to Congress on why Marihuana should be made illegal).

Year: 1937 Marihuana Tax Act signed (effective October 1, 1937)

Full Text of the Marihuana Tax Act as passed in 1937

Introduction (in italics) by David Solomon

The popular and therapeutic uses of hemp preparations are not categorically prohibited by the provisions of the Marihuana Tax Act of 1937. The apparent purpose of the Act is to levy a token tax of approximately one dollar on all buyers, sellers, importers, growers, physicians, veterinarians, and any other persons who deal in marijuana commercially, prescribe it professionally, or possess it.

The deceptive nature of that apparent purpose begins to come into focus when the reader reaches the penalty provisions of the Act: five years' imprisonment, a $2,000 fine, or both seem rather excessive for evading a sum (provided for by the purchase of a Treasury Department tax stamp) that, even if collected, would produce only a minute amount of government revenue. (Fines and jail sentences were f urther increased to the point of the cruel and unusual in subsequent federal drug legislation that incorporated the Marijuana Tax Act. It is now possible under the later version of the Act to draw a life sentence for selling just one marihuana cigarette to a minor.) One might wonder, too, why a small clause, amounting to an open-ended catchall provision, was inserted into the Act, authorizing the Secretary of the Treasury to grant the Commissioner (then Harry Anslinger) and agents of the Treasury Department's Bureau of Narcotics absolute administrative regulatory, and police powers in the enforcement of the law. The message becomes entirely clear when, having finished the short text of the Act itself, one proceeds to the sixty-odd pages of administrative and enforcement procedures established by the infamous Regulations No. 1. That regulation, not fully reproduced here, calls for a maze of affidavits, depositions, sworn statements, and constant Treasury Department police inspection in every instance that marijuana is bought, sold, used, raised, distributed, given away, and so on. Physicians who wish to purchase the one-dollar tax stamp so that they might prescribe it for their patients are forced to report such use to the Federal Bureau of Narcotics in sworn and attested detail, revealing the name and address of the patient, the nature of his ailment, the dates and amounts prescribed, and so on. If a physician for any reason fails to do so immediately, both he and his patient are liable to imprisonment-and a heavy fine. Obviously, the details of that regulation make it far too risky for anyone to have anything to do with marijuana in any way whatsoever.

Regulations No. 1 was more than an invasion of the traditional right of privacy between patient and physician; it was a hopelessly involved set of rules that were obviously designed not merely to discourage but to prohibit the medical and popular use of marijuana. In addition to the Marihuana Tax Act and Regulations No. 1, the Bureau of Narcotics prepared a standard bill for marihuana that more than forty state legislatures enacted. This bill made possession and use of marihuana illegal per se, and so reinforced the federal act.

U. S. TREASURY DEPARTMENT

BUREAU OF NARCOTICS

REGULATIONS No. 1

RELATING TO THE

IMPORTATION, MANUFACTURE, PRODUCTION

COMPOUNDING, SALE, DEALING IN, DISPENSING

PRESCRIBING, ADMINISTERING, AND

GIVING AWAY OF

MARIHUANA

UNDER THE

ACT OF AUGUST 2, 1937

PUBLIC, No. 238, 75TH CONGRESS

NARCOTIC-INTERNAL REVENUE REGULATIONS

JOINT MARIHUANA REGULATIONS MADE BY THE

COMMISSIONER OF NARCOTICS AND THE

COMMISSIONER OF

INTERNAL REVENUE WITH THE APPROVAL OF

THE SECRETARY OF THE TREASURY

EFFECTIVE DATE, OCTOBER 1, 1937

LAW AND REGULATIONS RELATING TO THE IMPORTATION, MANUFACTURE, PRODUCTION, COMPOUNDING, SALE, DEALING IN, DISPENSING, PRESCRIBING, ADMINISTERING, AND GIVING AWAY OF MARIHUANA

THE LAW

(Act of Aug. 2, 1937, Public 238, 75th Congress)

Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled, That when used in this Act,

(a) The term "person" means an individual, a partnership, trust, association, company, or corporation and includes an officer or employee of a trust, association, company, or corporation, or a member or employee of a partnership, who, as such officer, employee, or member, is under a duty to perform any act in respect of which any violation of this Act occurs.

(b) The term "marihuana" means all parts of the plant Cannabis sativa L., whether growing or not; the seeds thereof; the resin extracted from any part of such plant; and every compound, manufacture, salt, derivative, mixture, or preparation of such plant, its seeds, or resin- but shall not include the mature stalks of such plant, fiber produced from such stalks, oil or cake made from the seeds of such plant, any other compound, manufacture, salt, derivative, mixture, or preparation of such mature stalks (except the resin extracted therefrom), fiber, oil, or cake, or the sterilized seed of such plant which is incapable of germination.

(c) The term "producer" means any person who (1) plants, cultivates, or in any way facilitates the natural growth of marihuana; or (2) harvests and transfers or makes use of marihuana.

(d) The term "Secretary" means the Secretary of the Treasury and the term "collector means collector of internal revenue.

(e) The term "transfer" or "transferred" means any type of disposition resulting in a change of possession but shall not indude a transfer to a common carrier for the purpose of transporting marihuana.

SEC. 2. (a) Every person who imports, manufactures, produces, compounds, sells, deals in, dispenses, prescribes, administers, or gives away marihuana shall ( 1 ) within fifteen days after the effective date of this Act, or (2) before engaging after the expiration of such fifteen-day period in any of the above mentioned activities, and (3) thereafter, on or before July 1 of each year, pay the following special taxes respectively:

(1) Importers, manufacturers, and compounders of marihuana, $24 per year.

(2) Producers of marihuana (except those included within subdivision (4) of this subsection), $1 per year, or fraction thereof, during which they engage in such activity.

(3) Physicians, dentists, veterinary surgeons, and other practitioners who distribute, dispense, give away, administer, or prescribe marihuana to patients upon whom they in the course of their professional practice are in attendance, $1 per year or fraction thereof during which they engage in any of such activities.

(4) Any person not registered as an importer, manufacturer, producer, or compounder who obtains and uses marihuana in a laboratory for the purpose of research, instruction, or analysis, or who produces marihuana for any such purpose, $1 per year, or fraction thereof, during which he engages in such activities.

(5) Any person who is not a physician, dentist, veterinary surgeon, or other practitioner and who deals in, dispenses, or gives away marihuana, $3 per year: Provided, That any person who has registered and paid the special tax as an importer, manufacturer, compounder, or producer, as required by subdivisions ( 1 ) and (2) of this subsection, may deal in, dispense, or give away marihuana imported, manufactured, compounded, or produced by him without further payment of the tax imposed by this section.

(b) Where a tax under subdivision (1) or (5) is payable on July 1 of any year it shall be computed for one year; where any such tax is payable on any other day it shall be computed proportionately from the first day of the month in which the liability for the tax accrued to the following July 1.

(c) In the event that any person subject to a tax imposed by this section engages in any of the activities enumerated in subsection (a) of this section at more than one place, such person shall pay the tax with respect to each such place.

(d) Except as otherwise provided, whenever more than one of the activities enumerated in subsection (a) of this section is carried on by the same person at the same time, such person shall pay the tax for each such activity, according to the respective rates prescribed.

(e) Any person subject to the tax imposed by this section shall, upon payment of such tax, register his name or style and his place or places of business with the collector of the district in which such place or places of business are located.

(f) Collectors are authorized to furnish, upon written request, to any person a certified copy of the names of any or all persons who may be listed in their respective collection districts as special taxpayers under this section, upon payment of a fee of $1 for each one hundred of such names or fraction thereof upon such copy so requested.

SEC. 3. (a) No employee of any person who has paid the special tax and registered, as required by section 2 of this Act, acting within the scope of his employment, shall be required to register and pay such special tax.

(b) An officer or employee of the United States, any State, Territory, the District of Columbia, or insular possession, or political subdivision, who, in the exercise of his official duties, engages in any of the activities enumerated in section 2 of this Act, shall not be required to register or pay the special tax, but his right to this exemption shall be evidenced in such manner as the Secretary may by regulations prescribe.

SEC. 4. (a) It shall be unlawful for any person required to register and pay the special tax under the provisions of section 2 to import, manufacture, produce, compound, sell, deal in, dispense, distribute, prescribe, administer, or give away marihuana without having so registered and paid such tax.

(b) In any suit or proceeding to enforce the liability imposed by this section or section 2, if proof is made that marihuana was at any time growing upon land under the control of the defendant, such proof shall be presumptive evidence that at such time the defendant was a producer and liable under this section as well as under section 2.

SEC. 5. It shall be unlawful for any person who shall not have paid the special tax and registered, as required by section 2, to send, ship, carry, transport, or deliver any marihuana within any Territory, the District of Columbia, or any insular possession, or from any State, Territory, the District of Columbia, any insular possession of the United States, or the Canal Zone, into any other State, Territory, the District of Columbia, or insular possession of the United States: Provided, That nothing contained in this section shall apply to any common carrier engaged in transporting marihuana; or to any employee of any person who shall have registered and paid the special tax as required by section 2 while acting within the scope of his employment; or to any person who shall deliver marihuana which has been prescribed or dispensed by a physician, dentist, veterinary surgeon, or other practitioner registered under section 2, who has been employed to prescribe for the particular patient receiving such marihuana; or to any United States, State, county, municipal, District, Territorial, or insular officer or official acting within the scope of his official duties.

SEC. 6. (a) It shall be unlawful for any person, whether or not required to pay a special tax and register under section 2, to transfer marihuana, except in pursuance of a written order of the person to whom such marihuana is transferred, on a form to be issued in blank for that purpose by the Secretary.

(b) Subject to such regulations as the Secretary may prescribe, nothing contained in this section shall apply:

( 1 ) To a transfer of marihuana to a patient by a physician, dentist, veterinary surgeon, or other practitioner registered under section 2, in the course of his professional practice only: Provided, That such physician, dentist, veterinary surgeon, or other practitioner shall keep a record of all such marihuana transferred, showing the amount transferred and the name and address of the patient to whom such marihuana is transferred, and such record shall be kept for a period of two years from the date of the transfer of such marihuana, and subject to inspection as provided in section 11.

(2) To a transfer of marihuana, made in good faith by a dealer to a consumer under and in pursuance of a written prescription issued by a physician, dentist, veterinary surgeon, or other practitioner registered under section 2: Provided, That such prescription shall be dated as of the day on which signed and shall be signed by the physician, dentist, veterinary surgeon, or other practitioner who issues the same; Provided further, That such dealer shall preserve such prescription for a period of two years from the day on which such prescription is filled so as to be readily accessible for inspection by the officers, agents, employees, and officials mentioned in section 11.

(3) To the sale, exportation, shipment, or delivery of marihuana by any person within the United States, any Territory, the District of Columbia, or any of the insular possessions of the United States, to any person in any foreign country regulating the entry of marihuana, if such sale, shipment, or delivery of marihuana is made in accordance with such regulations for importation into such foreign country as are prescribed by such foreign country, such regulations to be promulgated from time to time by the Secretary of State of the United States.

(4) To a transfer of marihuana to any officer or employee of the United States Government or of any State, Territorial, District, county, or municipal or insular government lawfully engaged in making purchases thereof for the various departments of the Army and Navy, the Public Health Service, and for Government, State, Territorial, District, county, or municipal or insular hospitals or prisons

(S) To a transfer of any seeds of the plant Cannabis sativa L. to any person registered under section 2.

(c) The Secretary shall cause suitable forms to be prepared for the purposes before mentioned and shall cause them to be distributed to collectors for sale. The price at which such forms shall be sold by said collectors shall be fixed by the Secretary but shall not exceed 2 cents each. Whenever any collector shall sell any of such forms he shall cause the date of sale, the name and address of the proposed vendor, the name and address of the purchaser, and the amount of marihuana ordered to be plainly written or stamped thereon before delivering the same.

(d) Each such order form sold by a collector shall be prepared by him and shall include an original and two copies, any one of which shall be admissible in evidence as an original. The original and one copy shall be given by the collector to the purchaser thereof. The original shall in turn be given by the purchaser thereof to any person who shall, in pursuance thereof, transfer marihuana to him and shall be preserved by such person for a period of two years so as to be readily accessible for inspection by any officer, agent, or employee mentioned in section 11. The copy given to the purchaser by the collector shall be retained by the purchaser and preserved for a period of two years so as to be readily accessible to inspection by any officer, agent, or employee mentioned in section 11. The second copy shall be preserved in the records of the collector.

SEC. 7. (a) There shall be levied, collected, and paid upon all transfers of marihuana which are required by section 6 to be carried out in pursuance of written order forms taxes at the following rates:

(1) Upon each transfer to any person who has paid the special tax and registered under section 2 of this Act, $1 per ounce of marihuana or fraction thereof

(2) Upon each transfer to any person who has not paid the special tax and registered under section 2 of this Act, $100 per ounce of marihuana or fraction thereof.

(b) Such tax shall be paid by the transferee at the time of securing each order form and shall be in addition to the price of such form. Such transferee shall be liable for the tax imposed by this section but in the event that the transfer is made in violation of section 6 without an order form and without payment of the transfer tax imposed by this section, the transferor shall also be liable for such tax.

(c) Payment of the tax herein provided shall be represented by appropriate stamps to be provided by the Secretary and said stamps shall be affixed by the collector or his representative to the original order form.

(d) All provisions of law relating to the engraving, issuance, sale, accountability, cancelation, and destruction of tax-paid stamps provided for in the internal-revenue laws shall, insofar as applicable and not inconsistent with this Act, be extended and made to apply to stamps provided for in this section.

(e) All provisions of law (including penalties) applicable in respect of the taxes imposed by the Act of December 17, 1914 (38 Stat. 785; U. S. C., 1934 ed., title 26, secs. 1040-- 1061, 1383-1391), as amended, shall, insofar as not inconsistent with this Act, be applicable in respect of the taxes imposed by this Act.

SEC. 8. (a) It shall be unlawful for any person who is a transferee required to pay the transfer tax imposed by section 7 to acquire or otherwise obtain any marihuana without having paid such tax; and proof that any person shall have had in his possession any marihuana and shall have failed, after reasonable notice and demand by the collector, to produce the order form required by section 6 to be retained by him, shall be presumptive evidence of guilt under this section and of liability for the tax imposed by section 7.

(b) No liability shall be imposed by virtue of this section upon any duly authorized officer of the Treasury Department engaged in the enforcement of this Act or upon any duly authorized officer of any State, or Territory, or of any political subdivision thereof, or the District of Columbia, or of any insular possession of the United States, who shall be engaged in the enforcement of any law or municipal ordinance dealing with the production, sale, prescribing, dispensing, dealing in, or distributing of marihuana.

SEC. 9. (a) Any marihuana which has been imported, manufactured, compounded, transferred, or produced in violation of any of the provisions of this Act shall be subject to seizure and forfeiture and, except as inconsistent with the provisions of this Act, all the provisions of internal-revenue laws relating to searches, seizures, and forfeitures are extended to include marihuana.

(b) Any marihuana which may be seized by the United States Government from any person or persons charged with any violation of this Act shall upon conviction of the person or persons from whom seized be confiscated by and forfeited to the United States.

(c) Any marihuana seized or coming into the possession of the United States in the enforcement of this Act, the owner or owners of which are unknown, shall be confiscated by and forfeited to the United States.

(d) The Secretary is hereby directed to destroy any marihuana confiscated by and forfeited to the United States under this section or to deliver such marihuana to any department, bureau, or other agency of the United States Government, upon proper application therefor under such regulations as may be prescribed by the Secretary.

SEC. 10. (a) Every person liable to any tax imposed by this act shall keep such books and records, render under oath such statements, make such returns, and comply with such rules and regulations as the Secretary may from time to time prescribe.

(b) Any person who shall be registered under the provisions of section 2 in any internal- revenue district shall, whenever required so to do by the collector of the district, render to the collector a true and correct statement or return, verified by affidavits, setting forth the quantity of marihuana received or harvested by him during such period immediately preceding the demand of the collector, not exceeding three months, as the said collector may fix and determine. If such person is not solely a producer, he shall set forth in such statement or return the names of the persons from which said marihuana was received, the quantity in each instance received from such persons, and the date when received.

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