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Old 10-19-2008, 07:26 PM
ChrisBooth12 ChrisBooth12 is offline
Join Date: Sep 2005
Posts: 1,768
Federal Law overrides State law regardless of the issue right..? (re weed)

I have a question regarding the way the laws work in the United States. Federal Law takes over any conflicting sate laws right? I ask this because I have always thought its been that way. When I think about weed though I have to take a second look. Weed is legal in Alaska under a certain amount and CA is going in that direction and already has pretty relaxed laws. So does the Federal government just not care or what? These people who live in these states could still get in trouble if someone working for the FBI or something saw them right?
Old 10-19-2008, 07:46 PM
Nobody Nobody is offline
Join Date: Aug 2000
Location: Oregon
Posts: 11,134
The 10th amendment states that
"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."
So the federal government isn't supposed to have the final say over everything. There are some things that the states can make laws on that override federal laws, if they exist.

The reason the federal government has power over states when it comes to drug laws is that the Supreme Court actually ruled that Joe the pothead, who grows his own pot, and smokes it in his basement, contributes to interstate-commerce, which the feds have control over. Therefore, the feds have authority over drugs.

Last edited by Nobody; 10-19-2008 at 07:47 PM.
Old 10-19-2008, 07:59 PM
Campion Campion is offline
Join Date: Mar 2005
Location: Hither and yon
Posts: 2,780
No, federal law does not trump state law in all instances.

The federal government is limited in its powers (that's what the 10th amendment means -- if something is not expressly given to the federal government, then it is reserved for the states or the people). Thus, if the Constitution grants the federal government authority to legislate in an area, it can (but need not) override state law in the same area. If the Constitution does not grant the federal government the right to legislate in that area, then state law would trump.

Here's a recent case that addressed your question: California permits medical marijuana use. Federal law prohibits marijuana use. An employee who used medical marijuana pursuant to California law may be fired for such drug use, according to the California Supreme Court. Employers have no legal duty to accomodate California employees who use medical marijuana.

That's an instance where the federal law doesn't "trump" the state law, but instead fills in gaps not covered by the state law.

This is actually a pretty big area of the law (google "dormant commerce clause" to get an idea).
Old 10-19-2008, 08:02 PM
Q.E.D. Q.E.D. is offline
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Join Date: Jan 2003
Location: Richmond, VA
Posts: 22,536
Originally Posted by ChrisBooth12 View Post
Weed is legal in Alaska under a certain amount...
This applies only to possession of one once or less in one's own home. Sale of amounts up to an ounce are a misdemeanor, even in one's home. Sales of larger amounts are still felonious.
Old 10-19-2008, 08:05 PM
The Second Stone The Second Stone is offline
Join Date: May 2008
Location: Antioch
Posts: 11,459
State government are general governments will all the powers that governments usually have except what the constitution carves out for the federal government, which is a limited government. However, in those areas where the fed acts pursuant to such limited power, it is supreme over state laws.
Old 10-20-2008, 06:36 AM
Harmonious Discord Harmonious Discord is offline
Join Date: Apr 1999
Location: Wisconsin USA
Posts: 16,843
One reason to have a law passed which conflicts with a federal law is, that if the federal law is repealed or deemed illegal, you have the state's law in place. It also makes a point to the federal government that your state is against the federal law.
Old 10-20-2008, 09:29 AM
Schnitte Schnitte is offline
Join Date: Feb 2001
Location: Frankfurt, Germany
Posts: 3,467
You have to draw a distinction between jurisdiction (also referred to as competence), i.e. the power to enact a law, and the effects of the enactment of a law. The federal government can only enact a law if it has the power to do so, and the 10th Amendment cited by Nobody says that the federal government is only competent to act if it's stated explicitly in the Constitution - if not, the power is vested in the states. The most important of these legal bases for federal legislation is the interstate commerce clause in Art I s8, but there are others.

If, and only if, the federal government is competent to deal with a matter, its laws trump those of the states.
"The banana has certain characteristics, appearance, taste, softness, seedlessness, easy handling, a constant level of production which enable it to satisfy the constant needs of an important section of the population consisting of the very young, the old and the sick."
Old 10-20-2008, 09:41 AM
Really Not All That Bright Really Not All That Bright is offline
Join Date: May 2003
Location: Florida
Posts: 67,343
Originally Posted by ChrisBooth12 View Post
These people who live in these states could still get in trouble if someone working for the FBI or something saw them right?
Yes. You can still be arrested/charged/convicted in California for violating Federal anti-trafficking laws even if you are not violating California law.

The DEA conducts raids of head shops and the like in California (and elsewhere) all the time, although generally they're looking for large scale trafficking and hard drugs, rather than basement pot growers.


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