by Michael Maharrey




I’m waiting for the invectives to fly at Seattle Times editorial board members.

Why? You might ask.

Well, the Times published an editorial advocating state nullification of an unconstitutional federal act. You know – nullification – that “dusty relic from the past, concocted by southern states to protect slavery.”

The writers didn’t actually use the word “nullification.” But that’s precisely what they suggest when they advise Washington state Gov. Chris Gregoire to, “JUST sign it!”

What exactly do the Seattle Times editorial writers want the governor to sign?

A medical marijuana bill that would create a regulatory system for Washington’s medicinal cannabis program and provide some arrest protections for patients.  House amendments to the bill passed the Washington Senate 27-21 last week, sending the legislation to the governor’s desk for a signature.

If Gregoire signs the bill, Washington would stand in direct violation of federal law. Americans cannot legally grow or possess marijuana, even for medical use – even if state law says otherwise.

The Times demands the governor sign the bill anyway.

Nullification – when states take it upon themselves to invalidate, void or otherwise ignore unconstitutional federal acts. Thomas Jefferson called it the “rightful remedy.” James Madison said states “have the right, and are in duty bound, to interpose.”

But Gregoire expressed reservations.

“I will review the bill to determine any parts that can assist patients in need without putting state employees at risk,” she said in a statement. “No state employee should have to break federal law in order to do their job.”

You see, the governor did what any “good” state official does. She sought permission from big brother in D.C. Gregoire asked Attorney General Eric Holder if she should sign the bill.

Of course, he said, “No,” emphasizing that marijuana is forbidden and federal agents have the power to arrest growers and dispensary operators. Even public employees who treat them as legitimate businesses “would not be immune from liability.”

That doesn’t faze the nullifiers at the Seattle Times.

“Bad idea,” the editorial writers said of Gregoire querying Holder. “She should have just done it.”

The paper seems to think the feds won’t act against the state or its employees. The editorial writers make a pretty good case.

“The local chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union said New Mexico has had state-licensed dispensaries since early 2009, and ‘the feds have not gone after any state employee there.’ Nor, said the ACLU, have federal agents cracked down on dispensaries in the other states that license them: Rhode Island, New Jersey, Maine, Colorado and Arizona.”

They also point out that the Obama administration would risk alienating Washington Democrats who support the bill should the feds take any overt action.

“It would force our two Democratic senators either to defy him (Obama) or to make excuses for him,” the Times editorial board wrote.

“JUST do it!”

Sounds a lot like Madison’s blueprint in Federalist 46.

Should an unwarrantable measure of the federal government be unpopular in particular States, which would seldom fail to be the case, or even a warrantable measure be so, which may sometimes be the case, the means of opposition to it are powerful and at hand. The disquietude of the people; their repugnance and, perhaps refusal to cooperate with officers of the Union, the frowns of the executive magistracy of the State; the embarrassment created by legislative devices, which would often be added on such occasions, would oppose, in any State, very serious impediments; and were the sentiments of several adjoining States happen to be in Union, would present obstructions which the federal government would hardly be willing to encounter

The Seattle Times editorial writers might not know it. In fact, they would likely shake in horror at the notion. But their demand falls right in line with the Principles of ‘98. In other words – nullify!

Far from evolving out of a southern desire to preserve slavery, nullification was first advanced by Jefferson and Madison in response to the Alien and Sedition Acts in 1798. And the principle was used to battle numerous cases of federal overreach throughout the Republic’s history, including military conscription during the War of 1812, and in a 180 degree reversal of conventional wisdom, by northern abolitionists challenging fugitive slave laws.

So in reality, the nullifiers at the Seattle Times stand in good company – typical zombie journalist opinion not-withstanding.

“Suppose the feds did crack down, and arrested the Seattle city employees who already have issued business licenses to medical-cannabis dispensaries. Would any jury around here convict them? Would any judge sentence them to prison?

“We think not.

“Just sign the bill.”

I agree Seattle Times. Welcome to the party, ye mainstream nullifiers. We need more of you.

Perhaps next, the Seattle Times will tackle nullifying Obamacare.

Mike Maharrey

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