Obiter Dicta

High Cost of Getting High


Photo-Illustration by Jamie Jackson. Photos Foodpix/Jupiterimages

At the Bonnaroo Music and Arts Festival (sort of a modern-day Wood­stock) held each June in Man­chester, Tenn., a person could work up an appetite visiting the displays and listening to the variety of musical acts.

William Hoak kept the munchies at bay by toting a combination of a popular breakfast cereal, marshmallows and margarine, known to most kids as Rice Krispies treats. But a secret in­gredient turned this tasty treat into a taxing trauma.

Tennessee Department of Revenue agents confiscated Hoak’s concoction at the festival on suspicion that it contained marijuana. It did. It was weighed, in accordance with the state’s Taxation of Unau­tho­rized Substances Act, and a tax was assessed. After the addition of penalties and interest, Hoak was on the hook for more than $11,000.

Not so fast, says Hoak. It wasn’t just the marijuana that was weighed; it was the rest of the aforementioned ingredients as well, adding substantially to the final tally.

In a lawsuit filed in August, Hoak is suing two former state officials for overtaxing his marijuana-laced “rice creeper treats,” as they are known in slang parlance.

Hoak’s attorney, Jonathan A. Street of Nashville, says the state’s tax is unconstitutional because it constitutes double jeopardy. “First the criminal court punishes him, then the state punishes him,” Street says.

The complaint also alleges a due process violation for the immediate confiscation of Hoak’s property.

Street says Hoak is seeking relief from the tax assessment, and as of mid-September the state had not filed a response to the complaint.

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