Monday, September 26, 2022

City to consider appropriating NC Drug Tax Revenue to fund WPD museum

The city will consider funding a museum at the Wilmington Police Department for $40,000. (Port City Daily photo/file)

WILMINGTON — City council will vote Tuesday on an ordinance to allocate money for the creation of a Law Enforcement Museum at the Wilmington Police Department.

Coming from the special purpose fund, $40,000 would be appropriated from the NC Drug Tax Revenue for the creation of the exhibit.

The drug tax revenue is a levy on illegal substances— marijuana, cocaine and heroin — as well as unauthorized alcohol (i.e. moonshine) or beverages served without an appropriate liquor license.

Legally, individuals are supposed to cover taxes even on illegal substances they purchase within 48 hours of obtaining them. For instance, NCDOR charges $3.50 per gram for more than 42.5 grams of marijuana and up to $200 per gram for high-value street drugs weighing over 7 grams. Illicit spiritous liquors, mash and mixed beverages are charged anywhere between $1.28 and $31 per gallon.

Taxes are paid by purchasing tax stamps in person at the the N.C. Department of Revenue (NCDOR employees will be charged with a misdemeanor if they reveal a purchaser’s identity to law enforcement). However, often the tax is paid after individuals are convicted of possession.

“If a person does not purchase the required stamp and is found in possession of one of the specified substances, the law enforcement agency reports the failure to purchase stamps to the NCDOR,” the NC Justice Center reports. “The NCDOR later assesses back taxes, penalties, and interest against the person.”

The justice center estimates more than 4,000 people a year are required to pay thousands of dollars in back taxes, interest, and penalties. “The average assessed drug tax is $8,872, but some end up owing up to $5 million,” it states. 

Seventy-five percent of the drug tax collected by NCDOR is returned to the state or local law enforcement agencies and the remaining 25% goes to the state’s general fund.

The Law Enforcement Museum would be located on the first floor of police headquarters at 615 Bess St. in downtown Wilmington. It would feature artifacts collected over the years — currently stored in a room “away from employees and the public,” a city document states.

“WPD wants to proudly display these items and tell the history of our agency,” the city noted in its agenda.

The museum will detail the history of the department and its service to the community. It also will include an outdoor Memorial for Fallen Officers.

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