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DOREMUS, UNITED STATES v. 249 U.S. 86 (1919)

Congress moved to suppress illegal drug trafficking in the harrison act of 1919 by compelling persons dealing in narcotics to register with the federal government. The act further imposed a $1 annual license tax, an exercise of the national police power. Justice william r. day, for a 5–4 Supreme Court, sustained the entire act even though the provision at issue was the one requiring the use of federal forms for recording transactions. "The act may not be declared unconstitutional," Day said, "because its effect may be to accomplish another purpose as well as the raising of revenue." He found the tax section closely related to the rest of the act. By ignoring legislative intent—and his own recent opinion in hammer v. dagenhart (1918) where such intent had been dispositive—he chose to follow the line of precedents beginning with champion v. ames (1903). A single-sentence dissent found that the act over-stepped Congress's delegated powers and invaded the states' reserved police power.

David Gordon
(1986)

(see also: Drug Regulation; Taxing and Spending Powers.)

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Doremus, United States v. 249 U.S. 86 (1919)

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