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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