JUNEAU, Alaska (Jan. 29, 2018) – A bill introduced in the Alaska House would ban the state from using resources to help the federal government enforce marijuana prohibition laws against people who are in compliance with the state law legalizing marijuana for medical purposes. Passage into law would greatly impact the federal government’s ability to continue its enforcement efforts in the state.
Introduced by Rep. Adam Wool (D-Fairbanks) and cosponsored by Reps. Scott Kawasaki (D-Fairbanks) and Harriet Drummond (D-Anchorage), House Bill 300 (HB300) would ban state or local government employees from taking actions that “enforce or aid in the enforcement of federal criminal laws involving marijuana that are inconsistent with state law.”
In short, if a person or business is following Alaska’s medical or recreational marijuana laws, the federal government would not be able to count on any support for enforcement actions against them.
The Alaska bill is a proposal to amend current law that bans the use of state and local resources to aid in the implementation a federal act that would “infringe on a person’s right, under the Second Amendment to the Constitution of the United States, to keep and bear arms,” or to “deny a person a right to due process, or a protection of due process, that would otherwise be available to the person under the Constitution of the State of Alaska or the Constitution of the United States.”
Medical marijuana has been legal in Alaska since 1998. Recreational marijuana was approved by voters in November, 2014. FBI statistics show that law enforcement makes more than 90% of marijuana arrests under state, not federal law. By ending state enforcement of any federal prohibition that is legal under state law, HB300 would essentially sweep away most of the basis for over 90 percent of marijuana arrests in the state.
Based on James Madison’s advice for states and individuals in Federalist #46, a “refusal to cooperate with officers of the Union” represents an extremely effectively method to bring down federal gun control measures because most enforcement actions rely on help, support and leadership from the states.
Fox News senior judicial analyst Judge Andrew Napolitano agreed. In a televised discussion on the issue, he noted that a single state taking this step would make federal gun laws “nearly impossible” to enforce.
Partnerships don’t work too well when half the team quits. By withdrawing all resources and participation in federal marijuana prohibition schemes, the states can effectively bring them down.
If HB300 is passed into law, the federal government would find marijuana prohibition against businesses and consumers nearly impossible to enforce in Alaska.
Provisions withdrawing state and local enforcement of federal law in HB300 rest on a well-established legal principle known as the anti-commandeering doctrine. Simply put, the federal government cannot force states to help implement or enforce any federal act or program.
The anti-commandeering doctrine is based primarily on four Supreme Court cases dating back to 1842. Printz v. US (1997) serves as the cornerstone. In it, Justice Scalia wrote for the majority:
“We held in New York that Congress cannot compel the States to enact or enforce a federal regulatory program. Today we hold that Congress cannot circumvent that prohibition by conscripting the States’ officers directly. The Federal Government may neither issue directives requiring the States to address particular problems, nor command the States’ officers, or those of their political subdivisions, to administer or enforce a federal regulatory program. It matters not whether policy making is involved, and no case by case weighing of the burdens or benefits is necessary; such commands are fundamentally incompatible with our constitutional system of dual sovereignty.”
Additionally, in the 1842 Prigg v. Pennsylvania case, the Court held that while the federal Fugitive Slave Act could not be physically impeded by states, they simply weren’t required to help the federal government capture runaway slaves and return them to bondage in the South.
HB300 has been assigned to the House Community & Regional Affairs Committee, where it will need to pass by a majority vote before moving forward. Supporters of the bill are strongly encouraged to call each member of the committee (contact info here) and politely, but firmly, request a YES vote on HB300.
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.