As pro-Liberty circles revel in their victory after residents of Oregon and Washington DC voted by ballot initiative to decriminalize the recreational use of cannabis, two additional victories in Arizona–both won by initiative as well, are also worth mentioning.
In a recent interview with Tom Woods, the Tenth Amendment Center’s Michael Boldin explains Prop 122 and Prop 303 in detail, and their significance to the modern state’s rights movement in the context of other pro-Tenth Amendment initiatives which made their way to ballots on election day.
Proposition 122 affirms one tool in the kit of the state’s rights movement, one that serves as the title of the Tom Woods book on the subject, nullification. Prop 122 alters the language in Arizona’s state constitution to mirror the “Anti-Commandeering Doctrine,” a series of precedents set by the US Supreme court (one among them as recent as 2012) which uphold a state’s right to refuse cooperation with federal authorities to enforce federal mandates.
According to Judge Andrew Napolitano, a state’s refusal to cooperate with federal agents can make federal laws “nearly impossible to enforce.” For all practical purposes, this is tantamount to a state nullifying, or rejecting, federal law.
In his interview Michael Boldin explains how Prop 122 may work in action:
“Every time the feds do a raid…they always have assistance from state and local police, state and local investigators, and state and local resources. The sheriffs block the roads, the cops knock on the door. They carry all the water while the feds have one or two agents directing the show. If the states withdraw support, then the federal government does not have the manpower or the resources to do to you what they want to do to you.”
Boldin envisions a broad range of issues on which the state of Arizona could invoke its new constitutional language to block federal overreach. In his article on the subject for the Tenth Amendment Center, Boldin suggests Obamacare, gun control, NSA surveillance among them.
The Arizonan people have already made clear at least one of the issues they’ll stand up against federal authority for. Passing by a landslide margin of 78-22%, Proposition 303, the “Right to Try” bill, allows terminally ill people access to drugs not currently approved by the Food and Drug Administration.
The FDA is notoriously criticized for the lengthy process it subjects pharmaceuticals to before such drugs may legally enter the market. Critics often claim that by withholding drugs from the market during this trial phase, the FDA denies safe medications to patients in need of them. The concern at hand in Prop 303 is for terminally ill patients, whose options in absence of experimental drugs leave them with a bleak prognosis, both in quality and length of life. Boldin cites similar measures already in effect in Colorado and Louisiana.
Although Proposition 303 enjoyed broad support at the polls, Proposition 122 barely squeaked past approval, 51-49%. If the fact of a nullification victory in Arizona speaks to the progress of the state’s rights movement, then the narrowness of its victory speaks volumes of how much progress the movement has left to make in public opinion and in law. Says Boldin, “One-hundred, one-hundred-and-fifty years of growth of federal power is not going to be turned around by one ballot measure.”
Nevertheless, for the advocates of the states’ rights movement, Arizona’s successful propositions, along with the wave of other pro-liberty ballot measures to succeed in 2014, stand as examples of the potential the ballot measure shows as a tool for republican democracy.
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