Challenging the Certified Weight of Marijuana in Drug Stamp Tax Cases

Most Iowans are unaware they can be charged with a felony for simply possessing 42.5 grams or more of processed marijuana flower without first affixing tax stamps issued by the Iowa Department of Revenue to the Ziploc baggie.

Quantities up to 42.5 grams (just shy of one and one-half ounces), especially in a single package, are certainly indicative of personal use.  Anything over that amount, however, and you are labeled a “dealer” for tax stamp purposes.  At $5.00 per gram, these stamps can add up to 50% to the street cost of medium quality cannabis.  That’s a small price to pay to avoid a felony charge, but few are aware of the drug tax stamp law and even fewer actually purchase stamps.

If you are charged with a tax stamp violation, then the State will identify the substance as marijuana and certify the weight of the flower through a lab report prepared by a criminalist with the Division of Criminal Investigation.

The current definition of marijuana under state law excludes both “the mature stalks of the plant” and “the sterilized seed of the plant which is incapable of germination.”  The term “stalk” is defined rather broadly to include both the stem or main axis of a plant and any similar structure that supports a plant part such as a flower, flower cluster or leaf.

So, you might expect the criminalist would exclude stems from the certified weight report, right?

Not exactly.

The certified weight will invariably include stems and seeds.

Why is this a problem? If the weight is at or near the threshold limit of 42.5 grams, then it contains plant material excluded from the definition of “marijuana.”  Plus, the state will never attempt to germinate the seeds to rule out whether they are sterile.  Those should be excluded, too, from the certified weight under the circumstances.

A few tenths of a gram may not be much, but where tax stamps are concerned, they can mean the difference between a felony rap and a dismissal, or as we like to refer to it . . . NFG.

The attorneys at GRL are keen to identify issues like this when defending marijuana and drug tax stamp charges.  We have the expertise to object to the certified weight reports and arrange for a independent reweighing.