Think about powers reserved for the states, powers which the federal government in no way have. Can’t think of any? It is incredibly difficult to find many powers, much less any major ones, reserved for states exclusively.
This is all wrong. As a federalist country, separation of powers between the different levels of government is essential. Once upon a time it was true, but today the traditions of federalism are little more than theory. The federal government has expanded at an extraordinary rate, affecting nearly every part of our lives.
November 6th marks a turning point in the United States, as the elections will determine which party holds the majority in Congress for the next two years. What many people do not understand, however, is that voting for candidates to represent them will not be the only thing that occurs next Tuesday in booths across the county.
After voting on specific state and national Congressmen and Congresswomen, an alternate section in the voting booth will ask questions pertaining to major issues in the respective state, by voting on initiated state statutes. On the ballots for 2018, four states will mention either the legalization of recreational and/or medicinal marijuana. Among those four states are Missouri, Michigan, Utah, and North Dakota. These states are taking the initiative that we have seen in many other regions across the country.
Missouri is the most radical of the four, laying out a 54th section to Article IV of the state Constitution. The proposal would make amendments as follow:
“Cannabis shall immediately be removed from the Missouri list of controlled substances”.
“Remove state prohibitions on the possession, growth and sale of marijuana for personal or medical use by anyone 18 years and older.”
“Anyone under the age of 18 shall have access to cannabis through physician recommendation or consent from legal parent/guardian”.
“All prisoners who have been incarcerated for non-violent, cannabis-related crimes shall be released within 30 days, unless time remains on the sentence for another dissimilar offense”.
Under Amendments Nine and Ten of the US Constitution, Missouri will reserve its right to nullify any federal laws conflicting with this act. The state will also prohibit any state funds to be used to assist in DEA or any other federal agencies in marijuana offense enforcement.
With Michigan’s Proposal 1, the state would become the first state in the Midwest to legalize the possession and use of recreational marijuana for citizens aged 21 and over. The motion would set a state-mandated tax on cannabis products with a 10% tax, to eliminate incentive to buy the products. “Revenue from the tax would be allocated to local governments, K-12 education, and road and bridge maintenance”.
The other side of this Proposal allocates the full responsibility of their actions to the pot users and growers, allowing the citizens of Michigan to grow up to twelve plants on their respective property unless municipalities restrict marijuana institutions in their jurisdiction. Marijuana-related charges will be decriminalized for future cases, and cases with offenders currently serving time may be overturned on a case to case basis.
The culture around Utah has a different outlook on legalizing all cannabis, like the cases in Michigan and Missouri. Most prominently, the progressive political action committees are lobbying for the legalization, while the protruding Church of Latter Day Saints suggests otherwise. Proposition 2 this November pledges to legalize medicinal marijuana for specific situations with the necessary conditions. Licensed physicians would be able to give out medical cards for marijuana products with guidelines and restrictions on use of said products.
Approved individuals are permitted to buy at most two ounces of unprocessed marijuana and/or a cannabis-based product with no more than ten ounces of THC included. The restrictions get even more limited, with absolutely no permission to smoke these products. Proposition 2 also will levy high business costs for the institutions creating the products, but alternatively spare marijuana from local and state sales taxes.
After trying to get this statue, or ones like it on the ballots for the past three election cycles, North Dakota finally has landed a position for ‘Measure 3, Marijuana Legalization and Automatic Expungement Initiative’ for the 2018 Midterms. This option on the ballot was created to legalize all the uses of cannabis in the state of North Dakota, whether for medicinal or recreational reasons. This would be true for any citizens aged 21 and over, with lobbied penalties for offenders caught using or abusing marijuana products who are under the age of 21.
Furthermore, the state of North Dakota will turn to the elimination of criminal records for people sentenced to jail time because of marijuana-related crimes. People arrested with counts of possession or were caught dealing will reserve their rights under Measure 3 to a speedy trial in order to pardon them out of the prison system.
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The history of the United States has been a history of the growth of the federal government and the degradation of individual and local sovereignty. As government centralizes, the State forces us into a “one size fits all” approach to not just government, but culture. With the death of local sovereignty comes the rise of the superstate, where the only checks on their power are the arbitrary rulings of the elites within their own ranks. To put it quite simply, the federal government will not check itself, and the American Empire will continue to grow so long as no outside force puts the federal government in check.
There is, of course, one way to resist federal tyranny that the government does not want you to know about: nullification. For the sake of this article, nullification will be defined as “any act or set of actions, that result in a particular law being rendered null, void, or even unenforceable within a particular area.” With this definition, we can see that nullification is simply an action that stops a law from taking effect within the geographical confines of a polity. So, if a state government passes a law forbidding the enforcement of a specific federal law in the state, the state is taking part in an act of nullification.
While the establishment wants you to believe that it is the job of the Congress to determine the laws in the US and the Supreme Court’s job to shut down unconstitutional laws, this is far from the case. In truth, any unconstitutional law immediately loses its legal power within the United States, and it is the right and the duty of state and local governments, and also the common individual, to resist these laws to render them null, void, or unenforceable. In other words, it is the right of the people to nullify tyranny.
Whereas state and local governments value their sovereignty, they have an incentive to limit the federal government as much as possible. The state’s right to nullify, however, does not come from the state, it comes from the people and their right to self-defense. As a self-owner, you have the right to defend yourself and your property from aggression; this includes aggression from a government. While the government is inherently unjust, we live in a world where the State does exist. With that in mind, the only role of government should be to preserve the natural rights of the people. In a federal system, this role of government gives local and state governments the duty to stop the federal government’s influence on the people.
Nullification is Constitutional
One of the top objections to the idea that the states should nullify federal laws they deem unjust or unconstitutional is that it is unconstitutional. This could not be more false. The Tenth Amendment reads that “The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.” Nowhere in the constitution is the power of nullification given to any federal entity, so clearly that nullification is not an enumerated power of the federal government. Article I, Section 10 of the Constitution outlines powers that the states are not allowed to do, and nullification is not on the list either. So, nullification is not a federal power. Nullification is not prohibited to the states. Therefore, Nullification is a protected power of the states as delegated under the 10th Amendment.
One objection that some will use is that the Supremacy Clause of the Constitution gives the federal government the power to stop nullification. The Supremacy Clause reads as such: “This Constitution, and the Laws of the United States which shall be made in Pursuance thereof; and all Treaties made, or which shall be made, under the Authority of the United States, shall be the supreme Law of the Land; and the Judges in every State shall be bound thereby, any Thing in the Constitution or Laws of any State to the Contrary notwithstanding.”
The “constitutionalists” say this settles the argument, but the ignore the true meaning of this clause. To be specific, they completely ignore the phrase “in Pursuance thereof.” This phrase makes it clear that the federal government is only supreme when they are pursuing actions specifically authorized for them to pursue by the Constitution. The Supremacy Clause, when put in modern terminology, essentially says “This Constitution and the Laws of the United States which this Constitution authorizes… shall be the supreme Law of the Land….” In other words, there is no argument that the constitution bans nullification. In fact, the 10th Amendment encourages it.
Kentucky and Virginia
In 1798, Thomas Jefferson and James Madison drafted the Kentucky and Virginia Resolutionsrespectively. In these resolutions against the Alien and Sedition Acts, the two founders explained why nullification is the path to liberty.
In the Kentucky Resolution, Jefferson declared nullification as “the rightful remedy” to federal tyranny. In fact, he did not see nullification as a power of the states, but as a natural right of the people. In Jefferson’s mind, an unconstitutional law is already null and void (Alexander Hamilton concurred with Jefferson in Federalist 78), it is just the duty of the states to refuse to comply with this law. Jefferson’s justification that Nullification is a natural right stem from his belief in self-defense. Simply put, if a government becomes tyrannical, it is the right of the people to abolish that government.
Madison echoes much of the sentiment of Jefferson in the Virginia Resolution. But he also outlines a process of how to nullify a law, which he also elaborated upon in Federalist 46. The way to nullify, according to Madison, follows as such:
Noncompliance with the officers of the Union. If the federal government passes tyrannical legislation, it is the duty of the state governments to treat the feds the way the colonists treated the British. Ensure that they are not able to enforce these laws in the states. Northern states did this in the 1850s by passing Personal Liberty Laws to resist the Fugitive Slave Act.
Mass Protests. When the masses come out against federal tyranny, state-level officials realize that they risk their power if they choose to comply with federal orders. We can see this with the example of Sanctuary Cities in the modern immigration crisis. City and state governments that resist ICE likely have a dissatisfied voter base who believe that Trump’s immigration policies are unjust and are willing to protest these.
Outspoken governors. Voters don’t take their state and local officials seriously anymore. But they should. It is incredibly important that the state officials feel emboldened to speak out against an overbearing federal government.
State legislation. If state governments pass laws saying that a federal law is unenforceable within that jurisdiction, this law is nullified. The states have this right, especially when the federal government is passing unconstitutional laws. We can see this with the state governments passing laws that decriminalize or legalize cannabis, even though it is banned at the federal level.
If All Else Fails
The most extreme act of nullification is, of course, secession. If a central government becomes too overbearing, it is within the rights of a local sovereign to assert their rights to self-defense and separate from their oppressor. In the same way, nullification comes from the right to self-defense, so too does the right of secession. Secession nullifies not just a specific law, but all laws passed by the central government.
We must remember, however, that secession is not just a state right. It is an individual right. If we reject the right of secession, we reject the right of one political unit to dissolve its bands to another. Divorce, for example, is an act of secession. The American Revolution was an act of secession. The right of secession is an individual right that must be revived in order to stop the rise of the total state.
Nullification: A State Right AND an Individual Right
While the states have the ability to nullify federal tyranny, who will nullify state and local tyranny? Individuals, of course! It is the individual right to self-defense from which the right of nullification comes, so why would the individuals not have the right to nullify? One of the most famous examples of individual nullification, though none dare calls it nullification, was the Underground Railroad.
In 1850, former President Millard Fillmore signed the Fugitive Slave Act, which made a farce out of due process, into law. The public responded by establishing the Underground Railroad, a system of activists who aided escaped slaves by helping them go to Canada, where slavery was illegal. It was after the Underground Railroad’s establishment that encouraged almost every northern state to pass Personal Liberty Laws, which restored due process for those accused of running from slavery. Some states even went further than that. There are several recorded instances of state law enforcement arresting federal marshals for attempting to enforce this law.
A more recent act of nullification is Cody Wilson’s work toward 3D printing firearms. The rights of all people are being violated by unjust state and federal gun laws. Wilson, however, has made a way for one to bypass all gun laws: print your own! You have every right to bear arms and the government has no right to infringe upon that. Cody Wilson’s innovation has made all gun laws effectively unenforceable. Cody Wilson used nullification to grow freedom.
Answering Objections to Nullification
The people who are against nullification, especially secession, claim this issue was answered in 1865. However, as alluded to before, nullification was used to fight slavery. From Personal Liberty Laws to the Underground Railroad, the states were resisting the adamantly pro-slavery federal government. And they won. Despite the fact that the federal government upheld slavery through the Fugitive Slave Act and the Dred Scott decision, slavery was unenforceable in northern states. In fact, one of the main reasons South Carolina seceded from the union was because the northern states so successfully nullified the Fugitive Slave Act. Nullification opposes slavery. Although one should never use the force of the State to decide right and wrong, I guess the naysayers are kind of right. The question was answered in 1865, and the nullifiers won with shining colors.
Some naysayers point out that state governments used nullification as a means to enforce Jim Crow laws in the mid-20th century. This is a problematic truth, at best. Plessy vs. Ferguson, a federal SCOTUS decision, ruled that Jim Crow laws were constitutional, giving the “separate but equal” doctrine. But the background of this case proves that nullification would have helped. The 1890 Separate Car Act forced racial segregation on train cars in Louisiana. But the train companies opposed this law. This is why a company allowed Homer Plessy to board a “White Only” train car. The private sector was attempting to nullify a tyrannical state law (remember that nullification is an individual right) but failed due to an out of control Supreme Court.
In addition to the Plessy vs. Ferguson case, we can see that the greatest atrocities of human history were committed by governments. From the Holocaust and other instances of genocide, democide committed by the communists, slavery, the eradication of the Native Americans, the Trail of Tears, war, and so on, government has killed and oppressed far more than the private sector could ever dream to.
But even if this was not the case, and that nullification was used to enforce civil rights abuses rather than the federal government (which was the entity that actually enforced these abuses), this does not discredit nullification. Nullification is a principle separate from the policies. It does not matter why one nullifies. It matters that they nullify because that is their right.
Nullification is Happening Right Now, and it is Saving Money and Lives!
In 1996, California passed Proposition 215, legalizing medical cannabis. California did this in spite of the federal ban on all forms of cannabis. Upon the successful passage of Prop 215, the Bill Clinton Justice Department announced their intentions to still enforce the federal ban. Since Clinton made this statement, 9 states have legalized recreational cannabis, 13 more states have decriminalized it, 30 states have legalized medical cannabis, and ZERO federal cannabis arrests have occurred in states that have legalized pot.
Nullification is the Rightful Remedy to Centralization
Nullification is the path to curbing the federal government. As time goes on, it becomes more and more clear that freedom will not be defended by a central entity. What matters is local sovereignty. At the local level, politicians are more easily held accountable. They are more inclined to align themselves with the values of their constituents. So, in terms of government, smaller is better.
When government localizes, the world sees a greater diversity in policy and culture. The people within each polity are more inclined toward cooperation whereas we know our neighbors, but not the communities that are thousands of miles away from us. In other words, we should let the Californians be Californians, let the Texans be Texans, let the Kentuckians be Kentuckians, and so on.
Imagine a world under one government. Imagine if China became a hegemon to the extent that it could impose its will on Americans. Imagine if China declared itself the world’s policeman. Imagine if China bombed hospitals and schools in the US to impose its will upon you. Would you not rebel?
To deny decentralization is to accept the idea that we should centralize and that one size fits all in terms of culture and politics. But we can objectively observe that this is not the case. So long as we reject world government, we must accept decentralization. If the US has the right to exist independent of a world government, should not the states have the right to exist independent of the US? Should not the cities have the right to exist independent of the states? The neighborhoods independent of the cities? The individual separate from the neighborhoods? In matters of decentralization, logic dictates the importance of consistency. To reject one facet of decentralization is to reject all facets of decentralization.
In other words, nullification is the answer. To resist tyranny, localize. Not only will this stop tyranny, it will also lead to greater harmony among communities, diversity in policy, and a greater power of the people to “vote” with their footprints.
Throughout history, human interaction has led to various cultures, states, and nations. These have brought with them both enrichment and destruction, bonding and division. Sometimes disputes arise over property rights. Other times it is by misunderstanding, negation of contract, or simple vanity of one’s culture or nationality which all can lead to total blindness and self-centeredness. Defining nationalities can benefit in the study of individuals within groups, help to better communication and understanding of others, but it can also have negative consequences of control and limitation. This is especially true when a State defines a nation.
It is imperative to first clarify commonly misused terminology. Many people, including myself, often mistakenly interchange the words ‘State,’ ‘state,’ and ‘nation’. A ‘State’ with an uppercase ‘S’ “is an independent, sovereign government exercising control over a certain spatially defined and bounded area, whose borders are usually clearly defined and internationally recognized by other states.” This includes State sponsored bureaucracy and the monopoly of the use of legitimate force and coercion with laws, regulations, and taxes, etc. One can interchange ‘State’ with ‘government’.
On the other hand, a ‘state’ with a lowercase ‘s’ is simply a part of a country, such as a state within the United States of America. A ‘nation’ is a group of people who have a shared culture, history, religion, language, etc. A ‘nation’ is not a ‘State,’ although there are some nations that have a State of their own. There are also some nations without a State, and still more that occupy part of a state or multiple states. Nations are fluid and socially constructed, and are thus not bound by borders. A ‘Nation-State’ is a State that has only one main nationality. Very few of these exist in the world.
Once people have come to define their State or nation, they tend towards doing whatever benefits it, rather than thinking logically through actions and consequences. They beget an air of superiority with their attachment to their fellow State-people and those of their particular nation. This is natural. As we humans tend towards empathy and sociability from our very nature, it is easier to survive and thrive within groups, and we find personal values that we put on hierarchical scales. If a person finds their State attacked they may be less concerned than if their nation is attacked, if they find stronger attachments to their nation, and of course vice versa.
Many States try to find a commonality within their citizenry in order to propagate a nationality. As a result, their government becomes stronger and more effective in carrying out their particular agendas. They may attempt to do so in many ways, including wording, such as adding a State religion. We see this within the U.S., which put “In God We Trust” on currency in 1956, or adding “One nation, under God,” to the Pledge of Allegiance in 1954.
States will use their arbitrary borders to determine who to support and oppose, as seen in war and immigration policies, rather than basing it off of the individuals within these borders. On the other hand, nations will collectively determine who is ‘in’ and who is ‘out’ based on their nationalistic customs and norms. Similarly to both nations and States, going to a team sporting event, one can easily witness the collectivist competitiveness of people solely based on their team’s geographic location, wanting only the best for theirs and condemning those that oppose them. This can sometimes lead to brawls and destruction, although on a much smaller scale than when actual States and nations go to war.
When colonialism was most prevalent in the world, many people found conflicts with the imposing State establishing and enforcing Western European nationalism of liberal and democratic ideals through creating or infiltrating markets. As seen in China, where various States were trading with the Chinese and others, it was expected that the Chinese people would not only trade but also partake in the national identity of the Europeans. “While bi-culturalism was essential at least on the part of the elite, the colonial system discouraged ambivalence and boundary crossing. Chinese should remain Chinese.” This is to say that only certain people could cross boundaries, but not the Chinese, which is evidence of control through nationalism.
Yet, equally, some believe people are incapable of reaching the same truths as they possess, such as the idea that “the assertion of difference by [his] predecessors put colonialism at odds with a society incapable of capitalism and modern government thus necessitating colonial intervention and education.” In the first quote, it is shown that providing the benefits of colonialism had exclusive extra rights for particular people, whereas the second quote is attempting to assert pompous superiority in determining who is capable and who is not. The second quote is thus evidence of a State imposing nationalistic ideals on another group.
When States are attempting to determine who is of what nationality, we need to ask ourselves what the purpose of such questioning would be. It is typical to hear government statistics which point to the numbers of certain groups of people, genders, sexes, ages, ethnicities, races, cultural norms, etc.
Most people have grown numb to this idea and think it is prudent to collect information on people as seen in this quote: “Ultimately, if we cannot identify any further properties that are unique to ethnic identity, we would be better off substituting the concept of ethnic identity in our theories with concepts such as descent-based identities or identities based on sticky or visible attributes… The negative claim, that ethnicity does not matter, is a discovery of great magnitude. It should have far-reaching consequences for research and data collection, suggesting that we should abandon the large number of theories and data-sets on ethnicity and start again on an entirely different foundation.”
This evidence suggests States use statistics of nations, markets, and the States themselves in order to control rather than simply study. This is to say that State statistics are typically a control mechanism, and States often choose to control nations via any means necessary. Equally so, “If it is true that governments make decisions based on how they believe ethnic groups will respond, then it must also be true that ethnic groups are equally strategic in their behavior toward their governments.” Many nations have also used the coercive force of the State to push out competitive nationalities and hold their particular nation as the highest among the State, even going as far as establishing a newly reformed State under the control of the nation.
Economist and political theorist, Dr. Murray Rothbard, stated, “Not only do statistics gathering and producing go beyond the governmental function of defense of persons and property; not only are economic resources wasted and misallocated, and the taxpayers, industry, small business, and the consumer burdened. But, furthermore, statistics are, in a crucial sense, critical to all interventionist and socialist activities of government (i.e. the State).” He went on to say, “…In order to get ‘into’ the situation that they are trying to plan and reform, they must obtain knowledge that is not personal, day-to-day experience; the only form that such knowledge can take is statistics. Statistics are the eyes and ears of the bureaucrat, the politician, the socialistic reformer. Only by statistics can they know, or at least have any idea about, what is going on…”
Indeed, as specified by one author in regards to the Indonesian State discouraging statistic control of nationalities within their borders, “Independence removed the status gap, and the colonial habit of classifying by race. Officially the new Indonesian Nation-State adopted a policy of assimilation, discouraging, and after 1966 prohibiting, public expressions of Chinese language or culture. The Indonesian censuses dropped colonial-style questions about ethnicity, and officially all citizens became equal.” On one hand, this shows a State using complete terrifying control of a nation by not allowing Chinese and other individuals of self-expression through Chinese language or culture. However, they simultaneously stopped inquiring into the statistics of individuals, thus making people more equal in a strange way.
It is not right or beneficial to everyone to prohibit such a thing as national norms that do not harm anyone else. However, States should not be inquiring about the nationality, ethnicity, gender, sex, race, etc. of people in order to gain statistics of control. These State-run statistics are often used to justify why certain groups or nations of people are not and should not be equal to that of another, such as who is smarter, wealthier, commits less crimes, who is more educated, etc.
The purpose of the U.S. government was supposed to be to protect Life, Liberty, and Property, not to find out how many people live, what they do with their own lives, and how much stuff they own. It is my position that the U.S. State should cease questioning and gathering of statistics of race, gender, sex, ethnicity, and nationalism in order to work towards making people actually more equal under the law. Statistics sway the perceptions and judgments of judges, juries, politicians, and others, rather than analyzing individuals on a case-by-case basis. We should be concerned more with the individual and not about the various nations collectively under the State. Justice is to be blind, and so should the State.
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Last Thursday with the help of Attorney General Jeff Sessions, the Trump administration took aim at marijuana decriminalization. Specific policy changes repealed a measure, implemented under Obama in 2013, that protected states Marijuana policies from federal intervention. With this change comes an opportunity for the federal government to closely monitor and potentially choose whether or not to enforce laws on a state to state level based on the content of the policy.
Obviously, objections were quick to arise. One of the most notable came from former representative Ron Paul. Paul appeared on CNN Saturday denounces Sessions actions. He said that Sessions represents something that is completely un-American. “To me, the war on drugs is a war on liberty,”. He added that “Jeff Sessions is not a Libertarian, not at all.” Paul justified his pro-choice position by saying that “I think that we overly concentrate on the issue of the drug itself, and I concentrate on the issue of freedom of choice, on doing things that are high risk. We permit high risk all the time. We do overly concentrate on what people put into their body,”. The Trump AG was farther scolded, when Paul called the as to called the war on drugs a “totally illegal system” and adding that is “very questionable constitutionally”.
Beyond the concerns which Paul voices on the violation of civil liberties, many legal weed advocates from all sides of the aisle have been concerned with the potential federal abuse for which this change allows. While the issue and violation of rights and the enforcement of those violations go hand in hand, this example specifically, of federal oversight of state policies, seems to cross a major line.
Paul’s major claim was that Sessions should be fired over his un-American change. With support from democrats in congress, and building public pressure it is uncertain how long Sessions will hold his current role.