When Department of Justice attorney John Walsh recently referred to marijuana legalization in Colorado and Washington State as attempts to nullify federal law – yes, he used the word nullify – I thought something amazing had just happened.
After 17 years of states resisting federal laws on weed, the DOJ is now recognizing these efforts for what they are. Nullification.
I wonder who’s going to be next in DC. Maybe the Department of Homeland Security?
In response to 37 states refusing to be in compliance with the Bush-era REAL ID act last month, for the fourth time now, DHS acknowledged that they couldn’t enforce the federal law and quietly gave states yet another “temporary deferment” to some unspecified future “suitable date.” That law was supposed to be implemented five years ago this coming May.
When states like Montana say they won’t comply with the REAL ID Act – ever – I think it’s likely we’ll see a future statement from a DHS official telling us how states aren’t allowed to nullify federal acts, just like the DOJ did last month regarding weed.
SOME PERSONAL HISTORY
When I moved to Los Angeles from my native Wisconsin back in 1995, I had never even heard of nullification in a political context. The following November, when California voters passed Prop 215 to legalize the use of marijuana for medical purposes, the impact didn’t really register. Sure, it was strange that former presidents had come to the state to lobby against the Proposition as a conflict with federal law, but I still had no idea – nor did I really care – how it would play out.
Not long after that vote, a friend called me and asked me to go run some errands with her. Pretty normal stuff, I thought, until she told me what we were up to. The first stops were some standards – grocery store, get gas, things like that. I don’t even remember for sure. But one really stood out. We were going to a marijuana dispensary so she could pick up some pot which was prescribed to her by her doctor.
I thought, “Dispensary? What the heck is that?”
When she explained it to me as basically a retail store for weed, I was blown away. The things running through my mind were probably the same kind of things that people think today when they hear about resistance to federal law for the first time – whether it’s on weed, or gun laws, or Obamacare, or anything else. “That’s against the law,” I thought, “how can they be open and stay in business?”
It didn’t take long for me to learn that saying NO to Washington DC, while often daunting, certainly isn’t impossible to succeed at doing. Today, in fact, there’s over 1000 of these kinds of stores in one city alone.
From this, I’ve learned a powerful lesson: When enough people stand up and say NO to the feds, and enough states or local communities pass laws backing those people up – there’s not much that the federal government can do to force their so-called “laws” down our throats.
By 2006, when I decided to launch a project, the Tenth Amendment Center, I was sold on the idea of drawing a line in the sand. And in early 2009, in speaking to a CNN producer about dozens of states considering 10th amendment resolutions, I made a prediction. She was really intrigued by these non-binding resolutions that were getting passed around the country and after getting her questions answered, she finished off our conversation with what she thought was going to be a quick question, “What’s the next big thing we should be watching for?”
My answer: Nullification.
She had never heard of the word. So I explained some of the history behind nullification. I told her how states were refusing not only federal laws on marijuana, but resistance to the REAL ID act was succeeding too. I mentioned to her that I was seeing strong indicators that state legislators would start pushing for nullification on other issues too.
She brushed me off, saying basically, “Well, if you think of anything we should pay attention too, you have my number.”
While CNN didn’t want to pick up on nullification as an important trend in political activism – and neither have any of the other news networks, by the way – that certainly doesn’t mean it’s not happening. Bills are increasingly being introduced, considered and passed on issues beyond weed and REAL ID.
In 2013, you can expect to see NDAA “indefinite detention” nullification as a leading issue in states and local communities. Obamacare nullification will also be at the forefront. A number of states will be considering bills to nullify unconstitutional acts by the TSA. More states will be looking to nullify federal laws on marijuana. And 2nd Amendment activists are also learning that nullification of federal gun laws is the way to go – instead of hoping the federal politicians or federal judges will somehow magically limit their own power.
These things, I know they’ll be happening in 2013. Consideration of bills like these in states all over the country is a definite. And while some will pass, it’s my hope that large numbers of them will. But that won’t happen without you.
With you involved at a state or local level – instead of a federal level – nullification has an even better chance of success. With you contributing financially to state and local candidates, organizations, and causes – instead of those on a national level – the nullification movement will continue its upward march. With you spending your time and energy keeping up to date on more local politics instead of the worthless soap opera that is the battle between Republicans and Democrats in DC, more people will follow your lead. While nullification comes in many forms – state, local, sheriff, and individual – with your help, more and more people will join this growing and successful movement…for liberty.
John Adams was right when he told us that the American revolution was not the war itself. The war was simply a result of the revolution, which was far greater. He wrote:
“The Revolution was effected before the war commenced. The Revolution was in the minds and hearts of the people; a change in their religious sentiments of their duties and obligations. This radical change in the principles, opinions, sentiments, and affections of the people, was the real American Revolution.”
Today’s revolution is also a radical change in how Americans think and act. It’s not a war, or a change in politicians in DC. It’s not calling your congressman, or demanding that a federal court take a certain position. It’s not asking federal politicians to start doing – or stop doing – anything.
Today’s revolution for liberty is about learning to live free – whether the federal government wants us to or not.
The Departments of Justice and Homeland Security are already recognizing the effects – and successes – of nullification. Will the rest of the country? With you helping lead the way in 2013 and the years to come, I know the answer already.