Nullification – A bad idea?
So often I hear the word nullification used as an insult much like the other dreaded N word. Nullification in this community is associated with the bat-shit crazy right wingers. Anyone who brings up nullification of federal law is immediately trashed.
Well, we have a states rights issue brewing at this time ladies and gentlemen. The issue of nullification is going to be brought up, and once again it will have to do with personal freedom. The great debate of marijuana is having its moment right now. The question I ask you all is if you will support nullification of federal law? When the citizens of the State of California vote to allow the recreational use of marijuana, and federal agents double down on their enforcement, where will your loyalties lie? Does a state get to tell federal government that its law and interpretation is unconstitutional? Does an individual?
as President John Adams put it, it has been the juror’s "duty … to find the verdict according to his own best understanding, judgment, and conscience, though in direct opposition to the direction of the court." Unfortunately, you won’t come across that quote from Adams in many modern courtrooms. Government officials don’t like being second-guessed by the hoi polloi, so the tradition of independent juries has been allowed to wither from neglect. Few jurors ever learn about the traditional power of juries.
But you don’t need to know history to have an inkling that the rights of the individual sometimes violate the dictates of the law — and then decide to come down in favor of individual rights. And individual rights are an endangered species in a nation increasingly hemmed in by laws and regulations that seem to render ever more of our daily activities either mandatory or forbidden. They need as much protection as they can get.
To preserve what’s left of our liberty, jury nullification is a good and powerful tool for checking government power. But since it is frequently discouraged by judges and prosecutors jealous of their prerogatives, it’s generally exercised on the sly — often by jurors unaware that they’re doing exactly what was originally intended. For that reason, we’ll likely never know exactly when nullification is being exercised.
Nullification is a tool to be used to manage the role of the federal government. In the constant political deadlock, where our elected leaders are lagging the political shift towards a resurgence in the importance of individual liberties, it may be the only tool that regains the freedom of our people to ingest a substance of their choice. They will do it, either way. I encourage a thoughtful debate about the role of nullification in today’s age.