Reporter Frank Cagle’s article, Positive Nullification: From Legal Pot, Gay Marriage and the Right to Farm, States are Asserting Rights, describes the method by which states can affect federal laws and how the 10th Amendment is favorable to changes in current laws over which the states and federal government are in dispute. Cagle says that many of the current issues, such as marijuana legalization and gay marriage, are contested in a partisan manner with conservatives pitted against liberals, or that states’ rights are often seen as the province of conservatives stuck in a Confederate mindset. However, he argues that reality is that the 10th Amendment of the Constitution is something that must be valued and utilized by all citizens and lawmakers from all parts of the political spectrum in order to balance the powers of the states and federal government.
The 10th Amendment expressly states, “The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the states, are reserved to the states respectively, or to the people” (“Tenth” n.d.). Cagle brings up the idea that when the states of Washington and Colorado made marijuana legal, they were attempting nullification of federal law, with the short-term result that the federal government decided not to enforce federal marijuana laws in WA and CO and the long-term goal of changing federal law. Although a state cannot nullify a federal law, Cagle says that by taking actions such as WA and CO did in legalizing marijuana, federal laws’ constitutionality can then be challenged in the Supreme Court. Cagle further demonstrates the irony of some federal law, writing, “It is not illegal to possess hemp, as long as you import it from China,” yet the federal government still prohibits its growth in the United States because of its relationship to marijuana, even though it does not provide the high of the related recreationally-used plant. The state of Kentucky legalized growing hemp for making business and industrial products, and will also likely face a supreme court challenge. The example of U.S. SWAT teams conducting raids over raw cheese and milk sales on family farms is given to illustrate Cagle’s conclusion, that federal law in these situations is a case of gross mismanagement that any citizen should be able to see,
Therefore, this article applies to the 10th Amendment because it shows how the nature of federal law can be challenged by the states by means of positive nullification. In other words, although a federal law may stand for a long time, such as that prohibiting marijuana, it is possible that if enough states decide to challenge the federal law, the judicial system may explore whether or not this law has any real justification in the Constitution. Cagle’s article brings up the important ideas that law is a living thing in that it constantly must evolve, change, grow, be reflected upon, restored, and reexamined in order for legal balance and order to be maintained.
Cagle, Frank (11 Sep. 2013). Positive Nullification: From Legal Pot, Gay Marriage and the Right to Farm, States are Asserting Rights. Metro Pulse. Retrieved from http://www.metropulse.com/news/2013/sep/11/positive-nullification-legal-pot-gay-marriage-and/
Tenth Amendment (n.d.). Cornell University Law School Legal Information Institute. Retrieved 12 Sep. 2013 from http://www.law.cornell.edu/constitution/tenth_amendment