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When Nullification Works, and When it Doesn’t


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When Nullification Works, and When it Doesn’t


AUGUST 14, 2015Ryan McMaken

TAGS Legal SystemU.S. HistoryPolitical Theory

Although leftists often like to condemn nullification as right-wing kookery, the left is quite good at employing the tactic.

Certainly, the most successful nullification trend going on right now is in state refusals to enforce federal drug laws. Four states (Colorado, Washington, Oregon, and Alaska) have all unilaterally declared recreational marijuana to be legal.

Left-Wing Nullification

While the successful passage of these measures did require support from libertarians and conservatives, the Colorado, Washington, and Oregon efforts especially benefited from support from people most would identify as so-called left-wing “liberals.”

Right-Wing Nullification

The conservatives have had some successes in their own way. Eight states (at the prompting of conservatives) have passed laws that nullify federal laws on guns within their own borders. Like the marijuana nullifiers, the gun-law nullifiers simply refuse to assist the feds in enforcing federal gun laws. Scissors-32x32.png

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  • 7 months later...
Pot Legalization: Obama, SCOTUS Defend Local Control Against GOP Attacks

MARCH 24, 2016 Ryan McMaken

The nullification of federal drug laws by Colorado, Washington, Oregon, and Alaska has for years been flipping the usual narrative on political parties in the United States.


"Local control" has long been regarded as the domain of right wingers, but ever since the movement to legalize marijuana at the state level using statewide plebiscites has gotten traction, the Obama administration has decided to look the other way in the face of local opposition to federal law.


Unlike Chris Christie, who swore — if elected president — to force prohibition once again, by brute force, on Colorado, the Obama administration has said extremely little on the matter. Essentially, it appears the administration is unwilling to concede power over drug policy in the states, but is also unwilling to actually send in federal agents to overturn the outcome of a valid statewide election Scissors-32x32.png


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