State Nullification Works: Colorado Marijuana Stores Prove it

Michael Boldin, Tenth Amendment Center

James Madison wrote in Federalist 46 that refusing to cooperate with unconstitutional federal acts would create “serious impediments” and “obstructions which the federal government would hardly be willing to encounter.” Yesterday, the people of Colorado nullified Washington DC and its unconstitutional federal laws banning marijuana – in a big, big way.

Thousands of people lined up at new recreational marijuana stores around the state on New Year’s Day, taking part in a business relationship that the federal government has tried to stop more than ever. A friend in Denver wrote:

“So one of the stores across the street from my house (next to Chipotle) is legally selling marijuana. It opened at 8am. There are approximately 2000 people in line at 8:30. Happy New Year.”

This isn’t happening because President Obama is friendly to the issue. He’s not.

It’s happening because state nullification efforts are overwhelming federal resources.

Statistics prove that the Obama administration has tried harder than any president – ever – to stop the states from nullifying federal power on weed. The DOJ has engaged in more enforcement actions than ever. And they’ve spent more money – in multiples – than any previous president.

The fact, though, is that when 20+ states take steps to nullify federal “laws” – the states win.

The genie is out of the bottle and she won’t ever go back in. The feds have lost and they know it. No matter how Holder and the DEA couch their words in an attempt to maintain an illusion of control, state actions continue to effectively nullify these unconstitutional marijuana “laws.”

On top of it, they simply don’t have the resources to do anything about it. As Mike Maharrey noted in a recent article, the feds don’t even have a chance to stop the nullification train that’s running them over.

Americans for Safe Access calculates that a direct raid on a medical marijuana dispensary costs around $300,000 and investigative costs run about $12 million per raid. That means the DEA just spent roughly $3.6 million on the raids themselves – plus investigative costs! Even if we play generous and assume that all 12 raids fell within the same investigative umbrella, that still means the DEA just blew $15.6 million.

I can’t emphasize this enough: 3 percent. In one city. In one state.

The annual DEA budget runs about $2.87 billion. It wouldn’t take too many investigations and raids to wipe that out. In fact, shutting down all the dispensaries in Denver alone would cost more than twice the total DEA budget.

Make no mistake, the entire war on drugs, including marijuana prohibition, rests on the same authority as all of the other undeclared wars waged by the federal government in the last 75 years.


The constitution delegates no authority for the federal government to wage drug war.  Drug policy should rightly remain an object left to the states and the people. Doubt this? Then ask yourself why it took a constitutional amendment to enact federal prohibition of alcohol.

In his original draft of the Kentucky Resolutions of 1798, Thomas Jefferson wrote, “Where powers are assumed which have not been delegated, a nullification of the act is the rightful remedy.” Washington and Colorado, along with all of the states now running medical marijuana programs did just that. They exercised their will, ignored the federal mandates and acted with the support of the people in their states.

And it’s working.

This should be seen as a blueprint for victory.  Time will tell if advocates for other causes will have the same kind of courage.