The Thomas Jefferson Center for the Study of Core Texts and Ideas

Prohibition and Federalism: From Alcohol in the 1920s to Marijuana Today

Thu, September 13, 2018 | MEZ 1.306

4:00 PM - 6:00 PM

As more states legalize marijuana, the conflict between state laws and federal prohibition becomes more pronounced. What authorizes federal control over the in-state production and use of controlled substances? Are states constitutionally required to assist federal interdiction of those substances? These are not new debates. Instead they almost perfectly mirror the debates on alcohol in the 1920s, when prohibition unsettled the era’s robust and bipartisan commitment to states’ rights. Prohibitionists argued the Eighteenth Amendment was a particular exception to the general rule of federalism, while many state governing officials insisted that states’ refusal to assist federal enforcement was merely the legitimate exercise of state sovereignty rather than antebellum nullification. This talk will lay out this background, chronicling the Supreme Court cases and doctrines and public debate underlying the ongoing controversy over prohibition and federalism, as well as implications for other issues like “sanctuary cities” and the recent decision on sports betting.

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