This short Essay argues that various attributes we associate with federalism should not be deemed necessary components of federalism as a definitional or normative matter. Using Colorado’s recent legalization of marijuana as a case study, it shows how two such attributes – an autonomous realm of state action and independent state officials with distinctive interests – can be pulled apart. State officials often further their interests and effectively oppose federal policy when they participate in the same statutory scheme as federal actors instead of operating in a separate, autonomous sphere. At the same time, state officials frequently rely on the autonomous lawmaking and executive powers of state governments to advance a decidedly national agenda, acting in cooperation with federal officials rather than independently of them. Unbundling federalism helps us get a purchase on these pervasive practices instead of dismissing them as not-federalism.
Constitutional Law | Law | State and Local Government Law
Center for Constitutional Governance
Unbundling Federalism: Colorado's Legalization of Marijuana and Federalism's Many Forms,
U. Colorado L. Rev.
Available at: https://scholarship.law.columbia.edu/faculty_scholarship/1838