Gay Marriage and Marijuana Win Big in the States. Maybe Federalism Isn't So Bad After All.


In a November 2010 column titled "Stop Smearing Federalism," I surveyed some of the overheated liberal rhetoric directed at critics of President Barack Obama's health care law. Princeton historian Sean Wilentz, for instance, writing in The New Republic, compared opponents of Obamacare to the fire-breathing Confederates who urged disunion in 1861. "Proclaiming themselves heralds of liberty and freedom, the new nullifiers would have us repudiate the sacrifices of American history—and subvert the constitutional pillars of American nationhood," Wilentz huffed.

It was a delusional statement then and it looks even worse now. Voters last week in Colorado and Maryland, among other states, brought about sweeping federalist victories on behalf of marijuana legalization and gay marriage, respectively, proving yet again that democratic experimentation on the state and local level is not an inherently right-wing or left-wing phenomenon. Federalism is just another tool in America's constitutional kit.

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  1. We’ll just see how you like federalism when all the southern states reinstate slavery.

    1. Never heard of the 13th amendment?

        1. Then you are obviously too ignorant to be commenting on the status of slavery in America.

          1. I think we both know that’s not true. Now, if you had said too ignorant to be intelligently commenting…

            1. We DO know it’s true. You’ve already admitted you are ignorant of the the 13th amendment. Intelligence is not a prerequisite for knowledge. For example Kim Peak was an idiot savant who had enormous knowledge but little intelligence.

              1. Except that he’s ALREADY commented, so we know that it’s obviously false.

                1. PARADOX PWN’D!

              2. No, his original comment was admittedly ignorant, so it’s true. We aren’t talking about whether or not he can comment, it’s whether or not his comment is knowledgeable.

                1. Or, you know, he was being sarcastic, doubled down on the sarcasm when you didn’t recognize it as sarcasm and you have been whining about it ever since.

                  Sense of humor. Get one.

                  1. when you didn’t recognize it as sarcasm

                    Or maybe we’ve been out-sarcasmed. Did you ever consider that, smart guy?

                    1. A rare and beautiful triple-sarcasm? Oh my god, it’s full of snark…

    2. We’ll just see how you like federalism when all the southern states reinstate slavery.


      1. Three cheers to Damon Root for taking out the eminent historian Sean Wilentz.

        Granted, Wilentz’s myopic statement was almost self-evidently false. Nevertheless, Root gets kudos for his long memory and for biding his time and ultimately taking the stiletto to Wilentz’s carotid. Beast slain.

    3. ya it is really odd that all these racist are pro-pot and pro-gay-marriage. I wouldn’t have guessed that.

  2. For fucks sake it’s not gay marriage it’s same sex marriage! Why is Reason so hostile to the idea of two straight men getting married?

    1. Man, that’s an excellent idea for a business partnership. Automatic next of kin and power of attorney and you can’t be compelled to testify in court.

      1. Right after Ontario legalized same sex marriage there was a story about two old guys who got married to take advantage of the favorable financial treatment they’d get.

        They weren’t gay, they were just two old guys who’d been friends for years.

        1. Wasn’t this the entire premise of the god-awful movie Chuck and Larry?

          1. There was an Always Sunny in Philly episode on it.

        2. This could also be a great way to manipulate the estate tax for rich folks, assuming DOMA is repealed/struck down.

      2. James Spader and William Shatner did that in the series finale of Boston Legal.

  3. Also, you’re counting your chickens before they’re blazed on that marijuana thing.

    1. What about gay MJ crops? Afterall, they typically remove all of the male plants, or so I have heard, and so the female plants have become lesbian plants. So any actions taken against MJ is also action against the gay community!

  4. At least you avoided using that nails-on-chalkboard term “marriage equality”, Damon. You will be taken last when the squirrels finally have their revenge.

    1. I noticed that. Thank you, Damon, for not indulging in newspeak.

    2. Considering that two straight men or women could get married under the law, marriage equality has a more accurate ring to it. Nothing “gay” about platonic bro-marriage or OMGBFF! taken to its logical extreme.

  5. “Federalism” is just a racist dog-whistle term. D.C. home rule is still sacrosanct, though.

  6. The government shouldn’t be in the business of defining relationships or outlawing flowers. Now relationships are redefined and a certain flower has gone from illegal to highly regulated.

    Big fat hairy deal.

    1. Some flowers are bad, Mmmkay?

      All illegal drugs are bad. So if we make begonias illegal, then begonias are bad, Mmmkay.

      Geez, why can’t some people understand the simplest of things.

    2. Like someone asked earlier, does that mean you support making black/white marriage illegal too?

      I get that the end-state is government out of marriage, but that doesn’t mean we can’t be more fair rather than less so in the interim.

      1. If I said I thought you had too much class to play the race card, I’d be a liar.

        1. Just answer the question and spare me the ladylike faux-outrage, nancy.

          1. Do you still beat your wife?

            1. How is my question in any way like yours?

              Oh wait, it isn’t.

              So, answer the question:

              IF it is bad for the government to “be in the business of defining relationships”, THEN does it not follow that all restrictions of marriage licensure are good things?

              Look, alright, if you want the race card to go away, would you support banning marriage between two members of different political parties?

        2. It’s a fair question. If you think not expanding the issuance of marriage licenses is a good in and of itself, even if it means discriminating against homosexual couples, would you also have had the same stance regarding interracial marriage in the 1960’s?

          1. He doesn’t answer because he knows that the logical implication is “yes”, you would have to have that stance for consistency’s sake.

  7. I like the idea of various states telling the feds to fuck off since it’ll pretty much dismantle the notion that the Federal government has any interest in enforcing the law uniformly rather than arbitrarily. Obama can’t let Colorado and Washington blaze up while trying to force Obamacare on the states that refuse to comply. Maybe it’ll make the left finally openly embrace authoritarianizm.

    1. Maybe it’ll make the left finally openly embrace authoritarianizm

      ??? Since when has the left not openly embraced authoritrianism? Without it, there is no left.

      1. Yes, it’s readily apparent to us, but not to the 51% of people who voted for Obama. They still argue that the Federal government can constitutionally do whatever the fuck it wants because of the Commerce Clause and to question that is to question democracy and hate America.

        1. A large majority of those 51% do not think at all. Well, their thinking is of a very limited nature. They think that they have a right to free stuff and that the government is the source of that fee stuff. Whatever the government needs to do to insure the free stuff, is acceptable.

          But there exists a small minority of the left, the educated and elite ones, that think really crazy and dangerous things. They openly say things that reflect such crazy and dangerous thinking, and they get a free pass on it from our progressive media.

          Afterall, there cannot exist a progressive utopia as long as everyone is not forced to think and behave exactly like them. IF they think that big sugary drinks are bad, then they are bad, and anyone who thinks otherwise needs re-educated.

          1. Too many brains are wasted on rationalizing emotions instead of reasoned thought.

            What’s really sad is how many otherwise reasoned brains turn into emotive mush whenever the subject turns to politics or economics.

            1. mmmmm…brains…

        2. Most people who voted for Obama are not authoritarian. Some are. There are people like Shreek and Tony who really are hateful and authoritarian. But most are not. Most have no idea what Obama intends to do. But that is generally how authoritarian regimes come to power.

          1. Free stuff, in this scenario, is how they are coming into power. They have coalesced into a voting bloc that outnumbers any other voting bloc.

            And Obama knows this, and he knows that no matter what he does or how bad the economy is, he is going to get a free pass. That makes him exceedingly dangerous right now. The only thing that might slow him down a little is the HOR.

            When he said the best is yet to come, I don’t think he meant best in any semblance of what any of us here would think of as best. More like worst is my guess.

            1. I think it is more than that. Most of the Obama voters I know are not getting free shit. There are a lot that don’t. It is a cult of personality. And it is also that people just love voting for a black President. It makes them feel so good.

              1. Sticking it to the rich feels good.
                Voting for a black guy feels good.
                Forcing people to help the poor feels good.
                Making people buy the right kind of light bulbs feels good.
                Making gas more expensive so people will not buy SUVs feels good.

                It’s all about feeling good.

                1. You said it sarcasmic.

              2. Those are just the people that you know, sure they exist, white collar liberals. But I think that the freepers are the majority that have put the Dems into power. 47% that don’t pay income tax? Tens of millions on food stamps? All of those are voting team blue and that is where the advantage is.

                1. The freepers are about 45% of the population. but you can’t win an election with just them. There is another 6% who voted for even dumber reasons.

                2. You really believe that freepayers think?
                  No, they’re just a bunch of emotive boobs who feel that they have a right to the property of other people because the government has the power to do it for them.
                  They don’t think. They feel. And it feels good.

                3. Really? All of the 47% are voting Team Blue? This meme about people depending on government only voting D needs to die. SS, Medicare, and the military are the three biggest programs and primarily benefit Team Red voters

        3. In my experience, most of them can’t make that sophisticated an argument. They have never heard of the Commerce Clause or of the 10th Amendment; they think that the federal government can constitutionally do whatever it wants because, well, just because. If you question that, then “Shut up,” they explain.

    2. That is just it. And that is why I think he is going to pound Colorado and Washington.

      1. All the lefties who delivered those states for Obama while voting for legal pot are going to be so confused.

        Enjoy the DEA tune-ups bitches.

        1. This is a huge chance for Libertarians to get a large amount of new adherents to the cause in those states. Whether we take advantage is yet to be seen.

          1. I guess we shouldn’t laugh too hard – at least while they are looking.

            1. Something like that. Some of them, well a lot of them, are lost causes. Their facebook friends vote team blue and they can’t risk messing that up.

  8. The central idea of federalism is to try to isolate those public goods that can only be provided at the highest level of government, then to wall off that level’s powers at the limits of those public goods. It’s obvious that MJ policy and, to a lesser extent, SSM do not belong among the federal government’s powers.

    1. Its obvious to you and me, but to 99% of the denizens of the Imperial City on the Potomac, its so much gibberish.

      1. Every pie is tastier with the federal thumb in it, RC.

        1. mmmmmmm….federal thumbs….

          1. Too greasy?

  9. The enforcement tools in the federal arsenal will let them stamp out the Evil Weed in dissenting states – they probably won’t use these tools against gay marriage because they’re readying themselves for federal recognition.

    But as to dope, the law-enforcement complex, government-lobbying-itself lobby is going to insist on crushing the dopers – “what are they going to do, vote Republican?” Along with that there will be the “health is a human right whether you want to or not” lobby, which is going to be pressing for clean living at the point of a bayonet.

    If push comes to show, how do you think a standoff between states and feds is going to be resolved? Are the West Coasters going to break out the Confederate flags, sit in circles and chant Kumbayah? And if they did, they’d be crushed anyway.

    1. push comes to *shove*

    2. I’ve long believed that the internal contradictions of the left-liberal political project would collide with MJ policy. How can you go on a jihad to crush tobacco and leave MJ relatively untouched? How can you proclaim the involate supremecy of Leviathan and let states define their own MJ laws?

      That second point, I think, is that the core of the Obama war on dope…admit that there is such a thing as federalism and states will get the idea that they are something more than just administrative bodies for federal law, and we cannot have that, can we?

      1. admit that there is such a thing as federalism and states will get the idea that they are something more than just administrative bodies for federal law

        I think you’re on to something.

  10. What are states but laboratories for eventual all-encompassing federal law?

    1. Procrustes had a bed that was a lot like federal law…

  11. liberty has expanded in 2 key areas – drugs and RKBA FIRST through the states. that’s the beauty of our system – the laboratory of semiindependent states. my state has a right to privacy. california does not. we can see how that works in practice over time in cases brought to courts etc. individuals can choose states based on a # of factors to include economic and social liberty.

    don’t like income tax and dui roadblocks? choose state without it.

    federalism rules and sure congress is lagging . it’s the behemoth. the states are agile, nimble and WE are leading the way in WA, and CO with initiatives – the purest form of democracy

    1. So what are you and your superiors gonna do when the DEA demands local support for pot raids?

      1. nothing. we don’t work for the DEA. the DEA cannot (please show me the law that enables them to) DEMAND we support their pot raids or anything they do

        i can state unequivocally that my agency has NEVER assisted the DEA in the raid of ANY medical MJ distribution outlet. not one

        those are simply facts

        we are not feds, we did not swear an oath to enforce federal law, and we have NEVER had a subservient relationship with (god forbid) the DEA. it’s simply not an issue

        1. What are the WA police do when the DEA breaks into a state-owned MJ facility and robs the place?

        2. So, you will just watch them bust up homes and drag people off to federal prison, over a plant?

          Just asking, not even trying to be a smartass here, serious question.

          If the DEA comes in and gets really ugly, you just watch?

          Leave aside the fact that you don’t believe the DEA will do that. What if they do? What does the state of WA do to protect their citizens?

        3. I don’t know how it plays out in practice, but a DEA agent I know says that they don’t like to work with local LEOs because inevitably at least one officer in the dept. is working with drug dealers.

          Cops? Corrupt? NEVER!

  12. the states are agile, nimble

    The feds are about to put that to test. WA and CO are now in direct conflict with federal law. And the WOD is a sacred cow in DC.

    It might sound mean and selfish in a way, but I think a lot of us here do not want the Feds to stand down easily on this, but would love to see an ugly battle in which the feds get a black eye and some terrible PR before they lose the battle.

    1. WA and CO are now in direct conflict with federal law.

      Technically, I don’t think there is a direct conflict with federal law, although the state-run pot stores may be one.

      I’m pretty sure there isn’t an indirect conflict when a state declines to prohibit something that the feds have outlawed.

      Its possible that if the state licenses something that the feds prohibit, you have an indirect conflict.

      1. your point is sound. GENERALLY speaking, laws don’t “allow” X, they prohibit X. X is by definition illegal UNLESS there is a law against it

        this initative is a little different. it outright states X is legal, which is not how law USUALLY works, but considering the history of illegality it is a notable exception

        WA law does conflict with federal law in that it sets up a system and a structure wherein pot distribution is enacted which is clearly illegal under federal law. but i get your point. but the states have not merely declined to prohibit X, they have said X is legal and this is how we are going to allow you to distribute it.

        that’s pretty strong

      2. Technically, I don’t think there is a direct conflict with federal law, although the state-run pot stores may be one.

        How so? Is the legalization within a state jurisdiction not in conflict with the CSA, which has federal (read: national, in this case) jurisdiction?

        1. If a state were to require something prohibited by federal law, that would be a direct conflict, yes?

          But for a state to be silent on something, to decline to outlaw something, that is prohibited by federal law isn’t a conflict of any kind. There are lots of examples of this. Many federal laws are not duplicated at the state level.

          A state can also impose a lesser or a greater penalty on something outlawed by the feds without creating a conflict. A state can also outlaw something the feds are silent on, which was kind of the original plan.

          It starts getting fuzzier when the state licenses something illegal under federal law, or engages in an activity itself that is illegal under federal law.

    2. i totally AGREE that a lot here want to see the feds not stand down on this and a wild rumpus to ensue. like i said in another post, after legal mj passed into law there were practically NO celebratory posts. many people would much rather lament woe is me and i’m being so oppressed and revel in the nutpunches of various perceived injustices than CELEBRATE victories. kind of remind me of the OJ thang where some people cared more about seeing the LAPD get a black eye and if a murderer got off without punishment so be it.

      seriously we have a HUGE blow for freedom – LEGAL MJ in two states and literally NO celebration. when there is a perceived injustice, it will get a million outraged posts full of blather bravado etc. but when something GOOD happens, it gets next to no response except cynicism.

      1. I am in fact seeing this as a great victory for freedom. Maybe the biggest victory for freedom in my lifetime.

        But let’s get real here, the feds are not going to just ignore this. So I would rather them get into a PR quagmire instead of just making a few threats and then backing off.

        1. fair enuf. i;m not commenting on what i want to see, but what i think will happen. i don’t think it’s going to be much of a rumpus.

          1. Everyone has their own opinion. You are in a very small majority around here with that opinion.

            I am even in the minority here in being optimistic that the feds will eventually lose this. Most here think the feds will just squash this quickly and thoroughly and the voters in WA and CO will just go back to their routine and forget that it ever happened.

          2. I agree with you. The feds are not stupid. They see the writing on the wall on the MJ issue.

            On the other hand, WA is going to open state owned and run MJ shops. That makes the state employees federal felons. How does DOJ simply ignore that? If they do ignore that, how does DOJ prosecute a drug dealer in Oregon or Idaho?

  13. liberty has expanded in 2 key areas – drugs and RKBA FIRST through the states.

    Other than the expiration of the assault weapons ban (which happened via sunset, as I recall, without a single Congresscritter having to exert themselves to vote), what have the feds done to roll back their gun control laws?

    1. we have expanded RKBA among other ways, in that there are now FAR FAR more states that are shall issue than was the case 20 yrs ago.

      simply put, more and more people have access to and the right to (at least with a shall issue permit) carry a firearm. that’s a huge expansion of rights. every time a state goes from may issue to shall issue, freedom expands. for people within the state, it is a huge expansion of rights, since the right to self defense and the RKBA are so closely linked

    2. I took your “FIRST” to mean that the states did something that the feds later followed on.

      I couldn’t recall any federal rollback on gun laws, so perhaps it would be more accurate to say “ONLY” through the states.

  14. The only comfort I find in the gloomy predictions over federal abrogation of state law over marijuana is the pleasure I will receive shoving fed raids in CO and WA down the throats of every dipshit that voted for The King of the Dipshits.

    1. But you forget, no matter what the King does, the Rethuglicans would have done worse. They were going to put you back into chains, man! And Booosh did it too!

      1. Oh, I know I’m not making it through the levels of self-delusion, but it will be a nice hammer for use in social situations. And may their god(s) help them if they try and whine about federalism.

        1. The left will never tire of that word.

  15. Let’s look on the bright side of politics here. We can all endure 4 more years of the teleprompter making empty speeches. And then when it is campaign time again, we can watch the GOP trot out the same old candidates like McCain, Nukular Newton, and barf.. Sweater Vest, and say that they lost because they didn’t go SoCon enough or talk enough about bombing some poor country in the middle east. As they say, wash, rinse, repeat.

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