Illegal drugs in Texas are no longer taxable.
That said exactly what you think it said. Until the most recent legislative session, the state had a tax on illegal drugs, adding tax evasion to the list of things that could put buyers and sellers into jail. Selling and buying those drugs remains illegal, but now the transactions are tax-free.
The tax went to its unheralded death last September, part of a legislative weeding of the state’s tax laws.
It was a headline-grabber back in the day, passing in the Legislature’s 1989 session, when Texas lawmakers were looking for ways to make a political and policy statement. This fell between the eras of “just say no” and “zero tolerance.” The gubernatorial election that featured Republican Clayton Williams Jr. touting “the joys of busting rocks” as a punishment for young criminals was just around the corner.
Popping drug dealers, always a popular political idea, was particularly strong at the time. And the story then was all about Al Capone, the famous Chicago gangster nabbed not for his violence — the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre was attributed to him — or for smuggling booze during Prohibition, but for tax evasion.
Former state Rep. Billy Clemons of Lufkin sailed the tax through the House and Senate in 1989 and got a signature from then-Gov. Bill Clements, a Republican. It was a political no-brainer.
Maybe they approved the law for the headlines. But the explanation they gave for adding tax stamps to packaging for…