Today, I read a question from a respected TAC supporter that I’ve seen countless times from libertarians. That is, basically, “how can I support a state bill to legalize something the feds prohibit, if it sets up a program to require people in the state to get a license for it?”

I thought it would be good to share my response.

In this case, the “something” is hemp. But the same thought-process could be applied to anything – federally-banned guns, health care, marijuana or other plants, experimental treatments for terminal patients – or anything in between.

The supporter wrote, “these nullification bills only nullify the feds but at the same time create the same tyranny on a state level.”

The thought process is, I believe, correct in some ways, but incorrect in others.

My response:

We think it’s an important question, but do see it a bit differently.

Our goal is more liberty. And licensing is obviously not full liberty. But, it’s not the “same tyranny” as a full federal ban.  For example –

A state liquor license, to authorize the sale of alcohol, is not the same as a nationwide ban on alcohol.

A state driver’s license, to authorize driving, is not the same as a nationwide ban on driving.

A state hemp farming license, to authorize hemp farming, is also not the same as a nationwide ban on hemp farming.

With the former, there would be commercial hemp farming.  With the latter, it’s unlikely.

So it’s more of a strategic question.

Passage of any of these bills would mean that hemp farming will start in [state] soon.  That’s a change of the status quo and a positive over no hemp farming.  If passed with a licensing scheme, we’d encourage those who support even more liberty to work to remove licensing requirements over time, as the public learns that hemp is not dangerous – and in fact beneficial.

There is another direction that could be taken legislatively this year too.  If you have the ear of a legislator that wants to introduce a bill on hemp, you could encourage them to legalize without licensing.  In fact, we list such a bill as our #1 option on our model legislation page:

In some states, this is the best option and most likely to pass. In others, it’s the least likely to pass.  We prefer it, but will take every step forward we can get.

TJ Martinell adds:

It also allows the practice of nullification to enter mainstream use so it’s not considered radical or extreme when it’s used in other areas. The more it’s used the less “fringe” it appears. We really shouldn’t be concerned about whether state legislators embrace the term nullification, as long as they embrace the doctrine itself and use it.

Michael Boldin

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