One of the best examples of how to nullify didn’t come from the 19th century, and it has nothing to do with slavery. It’s happening now, and it’s about a plant called marijuana.
In 1996, the People of California passed Proposition 215, the “compassionate use act.” This authorized the possession and cultivation of marijuana for personal medical use, in defiance of federal prohibition.
You see, federal law doesn’t recognize any medical use for marijuana. This plant is illegal in all situations, all the time according to every branch of the federal government. When Prop 215 passed, the message from the Clinton administration was the same – we don’t recognize your state law.
Attorney General Janet Reno said, ”We want to make clear that Federal law still applies.”
An LA Times article dated Jan. 1997 repeated the same message, noting that “Federal officials … vowed to pursue California physicians who recommend marijuana for their patients.”
The threats from the Clinton administration didn’t stop people in California, or other states for that matter. And by the end of his term, 7 states authorized medical marijuana in defiance of federal law.
From there, the Bush administration ramped it up, taking a hard-line public stance asserting federal law ruled the roost on weed, conducting roughly 200 marijuana raids in states over his two terms. And in 2005, the Supreme Court also affirmed this uncompromising federal prohibition.
Those actions didn’t stop the trend in the states either. By the time Bush left office, there were 13 states defying the feds on marijuana.
From there, the Obama administration ramped it up still further, conducting more raids than Bush and Clinton combined. And at the time of this recording, there are currently 23 states defying the feds on marijuana, with four of them legalizing for the general public.
Even in face of increasing federal enforcement measures, the states found the winning path. It’s only a matter of time before they overwhelm federal enforcement capabilities completely, and the feds will have to act like they’ve decided to drop the issue just to save face.
What’s the message here? When enough people say no to the federal government, and enough states pass laws backing those people up, there’s not much the feds can do to force their so-called laws, regulations or mandates down our throats.
Tenth Amendment Center
The Tenth Amendment Center is a national think tank that works to preserve and protect the principles of strictly limited government through information, education, and activism. The center serves as a forum for the study and exploration of state and individual sovereignty issues, focusing primarily on the decentralization of federal government power as required by the Constitution. For more information visit the Tenth Amendment Center Blog.