As of October 1, 2012, Connecticut has become the latest state to thumb its nose at the federal government and pass a medical marijuana statute. That makes 18 states plus Washington, D.C. that have adopted statutes allowing possession and use of marijuana in limited medical circumstances despite the fact that such action is illegal under federal law. After this November's election, half of all the states may be in conflict with federal law as seven states have medical marijuana ballot questions pending. Students may see that an inevitable clash of government powers looms and look to the Supreme Court for a solution. The problem is that the court has already ruled in favor of the federal government in Gonzales v. Raich. So what happens when the states act in contravention to federal law? Isn't federal law supreme when there is a conflict? The last time the states refused to accept a Supreme Court decision (Brown v. Brd. of Education) there were riots in the streets and the US Army had to be called out. Certainly, this conflict is not likely to result in that kind of drama. But something has to give at some point.
In November, Colorado (Oregon and Washington, also) faces a ballot measure legalizing the sale and possession of small amounts of marijuana - without medical need. Legal medical marijuana dispensaries there are concerned that passage of the law will bring unwanted federal enforcement. Ultimately this legal dilemma cries out for a political solution. This is beyond the powers of the courts.