OPINION: Ryan McMaken - Nullification Works: Republicans Look to Legalize Marijuana as States Ignore Federal Drug War

OPINION:  Ryan McMaken - Nullification Works: Republicans Look to Legalize Marijuana as States Ignore Federal Drug War

Over the past decade, as more and more states have legalized marijuana, it has become increasingly clear that state nullification of federal marijuana prohibition is winning. Were it not for more than a dozen US states refusing to enforce federal marijuana laws, there is no way that we’d now be seeing realistic bipartisan efforts to overturn the federal ban. This has only happened because state governments have refused to cooperate.

While opponents of this strategy claimed that the federal government would never tolerate states ignoring federal drug laws, the opposite has happened. Rather than renew federal efforts to crack down on states that don’t play along with the cannabis drug war, the federal government has instead retreated and grown increasingly permissive, moving closer toward formal legalization.

There’s an important lesson here: true reform of federal laws may often have to begin at the state level to make any difference or create any actual change. “Electing the right people” in Washington, DC, is a pipe dream. State-level nullification is the far more pragmatic and effective solution.

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An economist for the Colorado Division of Housing from 2009 to 2014, Ryan McMaken is a senior editor at the Ludwig von Mises Institute, and author of Commie Cowboys: The Bourgeoisie and the Nation-State in the Western Genre.