Tuesday wasn’t just a big day at the ballot box for Republicans. It also featured significant victories for advocates of decentralized governance. The people of several states flexed their muscles at the ballot box, directing their states to essentially ignore federal overreach.
“Nobody really wants monopoly government centered inside the Beltway. We’re starting to see this play out at the ballot box. You can look at it as an anti-trust program for government,” Tenth Amendment Center national communications director Mike Maharrey said.
Arizona voters approved Prop 122, a state constitutional amendment that enshrines the anti-commandeering doctrine in the state constitution. Arizona will now have the ability to “exercise its sovereign authority to restrict the actions of its personnel and the use of its financial resources to purposes that are consistent with the Constitution.”
In other words, the people of the Arizona now have the power to prohibit their state’s cooperation with the federal government in the implementation or enforcement of federal acts or regulations they deem unconstitutional.
Opponents insisted the amendment itself violates the constitution, but Maharrey said that while it sounds radical on the surface, the amendment actually rests on a well-established legal doctrine.
“The courts have consistently held that the federal government can’t force or coerce states to implement or enforce federal acts. Justice Joseph Story established the precedent in Prigg v. Pennsylvania back in 1842, and several Supreme Court decisions built on his opinion,” he said. “Despite what federal supremacists tell you, there is absolutely nothing that says the states have to help the feds with any federal program. The constitutionality issue doesn’t even come into play.”
People in two states took a more direct approach, opting to simply ignore federal marijuana prohibition.
Voters in Alaska and Oregon legalized the recreational use of marijuana, becoming the third and fourth states, along with Washington and Colorado, to reject prohibition. They join nearly two-dozen states that have legalized marijuana for medicinal use.
“States have essentially nullified federal laws against marijuana. They remain on the books, but from a practical standpoint, the feds simply can’t enforce their unconstitutional laws on pot any more. The Jeanie is out of the bottle and she’s not going back in,” Maharrey said. “All of these states took James Madison’s advice in Federalist 46. He wrote that states could resist ‘unwarrantable acts’ by a ‘refusal to cooperate with officers of the Union.’ Madison said this would cause impediments with even a single state, and ‘obstructions which the federal government would hardly be willing to encounter’ when several states joined together. The marijuana issue has proved the Father of the Constitution correct.”
The Tenth Amendment Center exists to promote and advance a return to a proper balance of power between federal and State governments envisioned by our founders, prescribed by the Constitution and explicitly declared in the Tenth Amendment. A national think tank based in Los Angeles, the Tenth Amendment Center works to preserve and protect the principle of strictly limited government through information, education, and activism.