Sometimes good things happen in D.C. when states act first.

As a follow up to his recent post on how some nullification works and some doesn’t (to which I replied HERE), Mises Institute editor Ryan McMaken reports on how state action to legalize marijuana in Colorado has filtered up to spur Congressional efforts that undermine federal prohibition.

Colorado Rep. Diana DeGette (D-Colo.) has introduced legislation that would “protect” legal cannabis in Colorado from future federal executive branch action. The bill would presumably apply to other states as well, prohibiting federal enforcement action in states with legalized marijuana.

The proposed bill enjoys bipartisan support among the Colorado congressional delegation.

The Obama administration has pretty much taken a hands-off approach to state legalized marijuana, but no guarantee exists that it will continue.

“The threat of adverse federal action remains, especially if a future president to this one approaches marijuana issues differently,” DeGette said.

It’s pretty amazing to see a bill introduced in Congress that could undermine long-standing federal prohibition of weed gain any traction at all. As McMaken points out, it would never have happened if states hadn’t acted first.

“Of course, no such legislation would exist at all if the state had not first gone ahead and voted to ignore federal law and legalize recreational cannabis. Efforts in Congress to lessen federal Drug War power is a direct consequence of state-level disobedience to acts of Congress. In other words, state-level nullification has put cannabis legalization on the table for the first time in decades in a way that would not have been possible had the locals followed the advice of the “rule of law” crowd. In reality, there is no lack of “rule of law” in Colorado. It’s just the rule of Colorado law.” [Emphasis added]

This illustrates another powerful byproduct of state nullification. As more states resist a given federal action, pressure on Congress and other federal authorities to end such action increases as well. State nullification “turns up the heat” on the feds and can oftentimes drive changes in D.C.

McMaken argues that additional states legalizing recreational marijuana will increase the likelihood of Dehett’s bill passing.

“As the movement grows, the success of such legislation will become increasingly likely. This is especially true if California finally votes to legalize, as becomes more likely with each passing election cycle. (According to some polls, 55 percent of Californians now support legalization, and a new ballot initiative is being prepared.)”

While nullification efforts should never focus or fixate on influencing politicians in D.C., they can certainly serve as a driving force for changes in federal policy – a desirable side-effect.

Mike Maharrey

The 10th Amendment

“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.”



Featured Articles

On the Constitution, history, the founders, and analysis of current events.

featured articles


Tenther Blog and News

Nullification news, quick takes, history, interviews, podcasts and much more.

tenther blog


State of the Nullification Movement

232 pages. History, constitutionality, and application today.

get the report


Path to Liberty

Our flagship podcast. Michael Boldin on the constitution, history, and strategy for liberty today

path to liberty


Maharrey Minute

The title says it all. Mike Maharrey with a 1 minute take on issues under a 10th Amendment lens. maharrey minute

Tenther Essentials

2-4 minute videos on key Constitutional issues - history, and application today


Join TAC, Support Liberty!

Nothing helps us get the job done more than the financial support of our members, from just $2/month!



The 10th Amendment

History, meaning, and purpose - the "Foundation of the Constitution."

10th Amendment



Get an overview of the principles, background, and application in history - and today.