A nullification victory, DOJ will not fight states on marijuana legalization
The Tenth Amendment Center posted some great news for nullification fans: Nullification Win! Holder, DOJ Back Down. This from the story:
On Thursday, Eric Holder’s Department of Justice essentially backed down in the face of marijuana legalization by popular vote in both Colorado and Washington state.
The DOJ said that it would not challenge the new state laws. A DOJ memo indicates that as long as Washington and Colorado create “tightly regulated” markets that address eight federal “enforcement priorities,” it will not interfere with state laws. Federal enforcement priorities include preventing distribution of marijuana to minors, keeping drug money out of the hands of criminal enterprises, preventing diversion of marijuana into states where it remains illegal, preventing trafficking, preventing drug related violence, preventing drugged driving, keeping marijuana cultivation off public lands, and stopping marijuana possession on federal property.
This is great news. But this news shouldn’t give anyone the impression this is being done because the Obama administration finally woke up to the great harms done to American society by the War on Drugs. It would also be a be a mistake to think this is being done because the Federal Government suddenly recognizes states rights. The 10th Amendment Center article gives the true reason Holder is backing off:
Don’t for a minute think that the feds backed off because Holder and company are soft on weed. The Obama administration has spent more on enforcement measures and conducted more marijuana raids than any president in U.S. history. But when the people of the states resist in big numbers – the feds lose – just like Madison envisioned.
And the people do not support the unconstitutional federal war on marijuana. A Pew Research poll shows 59 percent of Democrats and 57 percent of Republicans think the feds should back off enforcing federal drug laws in states with legalized marijuana. Thursday’s DOJ announcement reveals the power of the people working through their states. It does indeed create “obstructions which the federal government would hardly be willing to encounter.”
A victory of this magnitude goes beyond fighting against the federal government’s failed drug policy. Nullification can and should be used as a tool by states to oppose any federal power that goes beyond its constitutional limits. Many states have passed (or are trying to pass) laws that nullify federal gun control laws. States such as South Carolina are trying the nullification of Obamacare. Nullification is a tool designed to allow States to counter the Federal government when too much power has been taken from the States.
The 10th Amendment Center mentions Federalist 46. Here is an excerpt from that essay written by James Madison in 1788:
The disquietude of the people; their repugnance and, perhaps, refusal to co-operate with the officers of the Union; the frowns of the executive magistracy of the State; the embarrassments created by legislative devices, which would often be added on such occasions, would oppose, in any State, difficulties not to be despised; would form, in a large State, very serious impediments; and where the sentiments of several adjoining States happened to be in unison, would present obstructions which the federal government would hardly be willing to encounter.
There is no doubt the War on drugs has created a disquietude for a majority of US citizens. Issues such as gun control, Obamacare, and over-regulation have also created a disquietude for great sections of American society. That disquietude can be relieved by States nullifying unconstitutional laws and actions. States exerting their rights presents “obstructions which the federal government would hardly be willing to encounter”. That is exactly what happened in Washington and Colorado with the marijuana laws. The Obama administration did not want to give up the war on drugs in these states. Rather they realized it is impossible to for the DOJ to act directly against the wishes of these states.
Hopefully more states will enact nullification laws. Nullification is the best hope American citizens have to reign in the overreach of power by the Federal government. And for those opposed to nullification I would remind them of one simple fact: this country was founded upon one of the greatest nullification documents in history called the Declaration of Independence.