March 1, 2016—The Vermont Senate has passed a marijuana legalization bill, and now Governor Peter Shumlin, a Democrat, is excitingly waiting on the House to do the same, so he can sign it into law. That would make Vermont the first state to defy the federal law through legislation of its own as opposed to direct democracy voter initiatives.
But according to Watchdog, Vermont’s legislators don’t want to make too much of the whole deal. After all, just because it nullifies the federal prohibition of marijuana doesn’t mean that word – nullification – should be used, would seem to be their logic.
But Michael Maharrey, national communications director for the Tenth Amendment Center, explained it well in the Watchdog article.
“When we talk about nullification today, we’re talking about nullification in practice. That’s exactly what these marijuana laws at the state level are doing — they’re nullifying, in practice, federal prohibition. It’s not changing the law,” Maharrey said.
“When you run the numbers, the amount of money it would take to shut down all the medical dispensaries in Denver would cost almost the entire DEA budget for a year. That’s one city in one state. The federal government does not have the resources or the personnel to enforce prohibition in states where it’s legal,” Maharrey said, adding that states are engaging in nullification “but they don’t even realize it.”
Vermont, it turns out, has a history of using nullification to fight back against the federal government’s slavery laws.
“In fact,” Maharrey explained, “Vermont had one of the most aggressive personal liberty laws written. In the 1850s, they called any attempt to capture an escaped slave kidnapping. They declared (that) any black person in the state of Vermont was free, and any attempt to take them into custody and bring them back to the South was kidnapping — a blatant contradiction of federal law.”
That history remains widely unknown, so those who voted in favor of marijuana legalization mistakenly believe nullification must mean something bad. State Sen. Diane Snelling, a Republican, however, actually did see state legalization of marijuana as nullification, so she voted against it.
“No, I don’t think the states can nullify federal law,” Snelling told Watchdog.
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