Nullification in Effect: Oregonians Defy Feds, Spend Millions on Marijuana in First Week of Legal Sales
SALEM, Ore. (Oct. 18, 2015) – In the first week of limited marijuana sales in Oregon, dispensaries sold a staggering $11 million of weed – more than double the numbers from Colorado’s first week – proving state laws legalizing cannabis truly do nullify federal prohibition in practice .
The Free Thought Project reported on the first week of sales emphasizing, “Adults 21 and over have been violating federal law by purchasing marijuana at medical dispensaries.”
Meanwhile, there were no reported DEA raids or any other sign of federal enforcement.
According to the Oregon Retail Cannabis Association, members statewide estimated collecting $3.5 million in sales on the first day alone. Within one week of sales, Oregon has made more than twice as much as Colorado, which sold $5 million in its first week of legalizing recreational marijuana. In its first month, Washington sold $2 million.
The sales volume becomes even more impressive considering the state only allows limited sales at this time. Customers can only purchase flower, clones and seeds. Other forms of marijuana, such as edibles, topicals and dabs, won’t become available on the market until the state refines its regulatory structure. Retail pot shops will likely open in the fall of 2016. The Oregon Liquor Control Commission will begin accepting license applications on Jan. 4.
And it becomes more impressive still considering 10 Oregon counties and 25 cities currently ban sales under a local option provision in the state law.
Meanwhile, all of this remains illegal under federal law. Of course, the feds lack any constitutional authority to prohibit or regulate marijuana within the borders of a state, despite the opinion of the politically connected lawyers on the Supreme Court. If you doubt this, ask yourself why it took a constitutional amendment to institute federal alcohol prohibition.
But federal prohibition evidently had pretty much zero effect on Oregonians’ behavior. While the feds claim marijuana remains illegal, thousands of people plopped down their hard-earned dollars anyway. Oregon marijuana sales provide a textbook example of nullification in practice.
Here’s the lesson: while the feds can still conceivably try to enforce their ban in Oregon, state legalization, and the number of people and businesses now involved in the market make it a virtual impossibility.
Statistics from Americans for Safe Access (ASA) suggest costs-per-raid and costs-per-investigation far exceed the yearly DEA budget. Figures indicate it would take 40 percent of the DEA’s yearly-budget just to investigate and raid all of the dispensaries in Los Angeles – a single city in a single state. That doesn’t include the cost of prosecution.
Oregon joins a growing number of states simply ignoring federal prohibition. Colorado, Washington state and Alaska have all legalized both recreational and medical marijuana, and 23 states now allow cannabis for medical use. With nearly half the country legalizing marijuana, the feds find themselves in a position where they simply can’t enforce prohibition any more. The feds need state cooperation to fight the “drug war,” and that has rapidly evaporated in the last few years with state legalization, practically nullifying the ban.
“The lesson here is pretty straight forward. When enough people say, ‘No!’ to the federal government, and enough states pass laws backing those people up, there’s not much the feds can do to shove their so-called laws, regulations or mandates down our throats,” Tenth Amendment Center founder and executive director Michael Boldin said.
While legalization in Oregon primarily affects Oregonians, its impact will ripple across the country. The feds run, fund and perpetuate the unconstitutional “War on Drugs.” Every state that opts out erodes federal power and hamstrings its enforcement efforts. By opening up commerce, reducing state penalties and encouraging freedom, states like Oregon wash away the foundation of federal control, further nullifying unconstitutional federal prohibition in practice.
As more states follow this lead, more will learn how to put this into practice for other issues as well.