Stoned federalism

The United States Constitution sets up a system of federalism, a union of states, each of which can have separate laws.  We are seeing some quirks of federalism today, as certain states legalize and commercialize what neighboring states treat as a serious crime.

Colorado is turning marijuana into a major industry and tourist attraction, while police from the states next door are filling their jails with people who have brought their purchases over the state line. [Read more...]

Split California into six states?

A measure that proposes to split California into six states–since the one has so much diversity that it is “ungovernable”–is actually making headway, with officials giving permission to start getting signatures on a petition to put it to a vote.  They only need just over 800,000 signatures.  I’d think they could get that in California.  The six states would be Silicon Valley, South California, West California, Central California, North California, and Jefferson (in the northernmost part of the state).

I’m curious about the constitutional ramifications of this project.  Can states just split apart like that, and if they do, would the U.S. Congress have to accept them into the union?   I guess secession is pretty much out of the question, thanks to the Civil War.  But if California were to split into six states, this would give the region 12 senators, probably from 8 to 10 of whom would be Democrats.  If this happens, Republicans might need to talk Texas into a similar division.

[Read more...]

No state ban on gay marriage has been upheld

A federal judge overturned Virginia’s state constitution that defines marriage as being between a man and a woman.  The story, linked after the jump, points out that thus far federal judges have thrown out ALL state bans on gay marriage where the issue has been litigated.  The Supreme Court threw out the Defense of Marriage Act in part, it was said, because that imposes a federal law that prevents states from deciding what they want marriage to be, saying that such issues should be left up to the states.  But in reality, states are not allowed by federal courts to determine their marriage laws at all. [Read more...]

Federalizing gay marriage

Not long ago, advocates of gay marriage were saying that since marriage laws are set by each state, gay marriage is an issue for individual states to decide.   Some, more socially liberal states, might approve same sex marriage, while socially conservative states wouldn’t have to.  But now the authority of states to set marriage laws and the solution of allowing diverse practices are both being taken away, as courts are ruling that same sex marriage must be legalized everywhere. [Read more...]

Taxes as a means of control

The Constitution limits the federal government’s power, but it does give Congress the power to levy taxes.  So Congress has historically used its taxing authority to pre-empt state laws and to exercise control over its citizens’ behavior.  George Will discusses an essay by David B. Kopel and Trevor Burrus entitled “Sex, Drugs, Alcohol, Gambling and Guns: The Synergistic Constitutional Effects.” [Read more...]

Federalism and marijuana

Colorado and Washington state voted in a referendum to legalize marijuana.  Not just medical marijuana, recreational marijuana.  (Oregon defeated a similar measure.)  The problem is, the sale and possession of marijuana are still illegal according to federal law.  The states are trying to figure out what to do and how this would work.

What we have is a crisis of federalism.  Conservatives, who might normally oppose drug legalization, are in the position of championing states’ rights, while liberals, who might normally favor legalized drugs, are in the unusual position of opposing federal regulation.

At any rate, if the states can figure out how to implement that referendum, Colorado and Washington can expect all kinds of drug tourism.  That might not be a pleasant prospect.

 

See  Marijuana approval leaves states scrambling for answers – The Washington Post.


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