PHOENIX (Jan. 15, 2018) – A bill introduced in the Arizona House would ban the state from using resources to help the federal government enforce marijuana prohibition laws against people who are in compliance with the state law legalizing marijuana for medical purposes.  Passage into law would greatly lessen the federal government’s ability to continue its enforcement efforts.

Introduced by Rep. Mark Cardenas (D-Phoenix), House Bill 2144 (HB2144) would ban state or local government employees from knowingly assisting “a federal law enforcement agency or officer in the investigation, detention or prosecution of a person” for violating federal laws on marijuana if that person is in compliance with state laws on the same.

It would also ban the use of “any assets, state monies or monies allocated by this state to political subdivisions of this state” to engage in “any activity that aids a federal law enforcement agency or officer or a corporation providing services to the federal law enforcement agency or officer in the investigation, detention or prosecution of a person” for violating federal laws on marijuana if that person is in compliance with state laws on the same.

In short, if a person or business is following Arizona’s medical marijuana laws, the federal government would not be able to count on any support for enforcement actions against them.

Last year, the California Assembly passed a similar bill over strong opposition from law enforcement lobby groups. The vote was 41-33.


Medical marijuana has been legal in Arizona since voters approved Proposition 203 in 2010. FBI statistics show that law enforcement makes more than 90% of marijuana arrests under state, not federal law. By ending state enforcement of any federal prohibition that is legal under state law, HB2144 would essentially sweep away most of the basis for over 90 percent of marijuana arrests in the state.

Based on James Madison’s advice for states and individuals in Federalist #46, a “refusal to cooperate with officers of the Union” represents an extremely effectively method to bring down federal gun control measures because most enforcement actions rely on help, support and leadership from the states.

Fox News senior judicial analyst Judge Andrew Napolitano agreed. In a televised discussion on the issue, he noted that a single state taking this step would make federal gun laws “nearly impossible” to enforce.

Partnerships don’t work too well when half the team quits. By withdrawing all resources and participation in federal marijuana prohibition schemes, the states can effectively bring them down.

If HB2144 is passed into law, the federal government would find marijuana prohibition against medical marijuana businesses and consumers nearly impossible to enforce in Arizona.


Provisions withdrawing state and local enforcement of federal law in HB2144 rest on a well-established legal principle known as the anti-commandeering doctrine. Simply put, the federal government cannot force states to help implement or enforce any federal act or program.

The anti-commandeering doctrine is based primarily on four Supreme Court cases dating back to 1842. Printz v. US (1997) serves as the cornerstone. In it, Justice Scalia wrote for the majority:

“We held in New York that Congress cannot compel the States to enact or enforce a federal regulatory program. Today we hold that Congress cannot circumvent that prohibition by conscripting the States’ officers directly. The Federal Government may neither issue directives requiring the States to address particular problems, nor command the States’ officers, or those of their political subdivisions, to administer or enforce a federal regulatory program. It matters not whether policy making is involved, and no case by case weighing of the burdens or benefits is necessary; such commands are fundamentally incompatible with our constitutional system of dual sovereignty.”

Additionally, in the 1842 Prigg v. Pennsylvania case, the Court held that while the federal Fugitive Slave Act could not be physically impeded by states, they simply weren’t required to help the federal government capture runaway slaves and return them to bondage in the South.

Additionally, in 2014, Arizona voters passed a state constitutional amendment (Proposition 122) that enshrines the anti-commandeering doctrine in the state constitution. The language amended the state constitution to give Arizona the ability to “exercise its sovereign authority to restrict the actions of its personnel and the use of its financial resources to purposes that are consistent with the Constitution.”

This is the same approach being used in HB2144.


HB2144 has been assigned to the House Judiciary and Public Safety committee, where it will need to pass by a majority vote before moving forward.  Supporters of the bill are strongly encourage to call each member of the committee (contact info here) and politely, but firmly, request a YES vote on HB2144.

Michael Boldin

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