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

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U.S. Supreme Court

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

United States v. Doremus

No. 367

Submitted January 16, 1919

Decided March 3, 1919

249 U.S. 86


While Congress may not exert authority which is wholly reserved to the states, the power conferred by the Constitution to levy excise taxes, uniform throughout the United States, is to be exercised at the discretion of Congress, and where the provisions of the law enacted have some reasonable relation to this power, the fact that they may have been impelled by a motive, or may accomplish a purpose, other than the raising of revenue, cannot invalidate them; nor can the fact that they affect the conduct of a business which is subject to regulation by the state police power. P. 249 U. S. 93.

The Narcotic Drug Act of December 17, 1914, c. 1, 38 Stat. 785, § 1, requires those who produce, import, manufacture, compound, deal in, dispense, sell, distribute or give away opium or coca leaves, or their compounds, derivatives, etc., to register and pay a special tax. Section 2 makes sales, etc., of these drugs unlawful except to person who give orders on forms issued by the Commissioner of Internal Revenue, which orders must be preserved for official inspection; forbids any person to obtain the drugs by means of such order forms for any purpose other than the use, sale, or distribution thereof by him in the conduct of a lawful business therein, or the legitimate practice of his profession; but declares that it does not apply (a) to the dispensing or distributing of the drugs to patients by physicians registered under the act in the course of professional practice only, provided the physicians keep certain records for official inspection, or (b) to sales, etc., by dealers upon prescriptions issued by registered physicians, provided the dealers preserve the prescriptions for like inspection. Held that the provisions of § 2 have a reasonable relation to the enforcement of the tax provided by § 1 (which is clearly unobjectionable), and do not exceed the power of Congress. P. 249 U. S. 94.

246 F. 958 reversed.

The case is stated in the opinion.

Page 249 U. S. 89

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