by Michael Maharrey

State nullification, as Thomas Jefferson put it, “The rightful remedy.” Simply defined, any action taken by a state that renders an unconstitutional act null and void.

Over the last several months, the mainstream media suddenly sat up and took notice, primarily due to state efforts to nullify the federal health care act.

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But long before the uproar over Obamacare, states were already exercising their sovereign right and duty to defy unconstitutional federal acts.  And while the mainstream media and political pundits may not recognize it as nullification per se, the movement to legalize medicinal marijuana across the nation serves as the most powerful and successful example of state nullification to date.


Currently, 15 states and Washington D.C. have laws on the books making the possession and use of cannabis for qualified medical conditions legal.

The effectiveness and dangers of using marijuana remain a matter of debate. But a 1999 report by the Institute of Medicine did find that cannabis helped some people deal with certain illnesses.

“The IOM report, Marijuana and Medicine: Assessing the Science Base, released in March 1999, found that marijuana’s active components are potentially effective in treating pain, nausea and vomiting, AIDS-related loss of appetite, and other symptoms and should be tested rigorously in clinical trials. The therapeutic effects of smoked marijuana are typically modest, and in most cases there are more effective medicines. But a subpopulation of patients do not respond well to other medications and have no effective alternative to smoking marijuana.”

But according to federal law, Americans cannot grow or possesses marijuana, even for medicinal use. Even if their doctor prescribes it. Even if the state says it’s OK.  And the Supreme Court agreed, ruling in Gonzales v. Raich that state-level medical marijuana laws were, in essence, illegal.

“…the regulation is squarely within Congress’ commerce power because production of the commodity meant for home consumption, be it wheat or marijuana, has a substantial effect on supply and demand in the national market for that commodity.”

But that didn’t stop California. Or Colorado. Or even Michigan. These states, along with 12 others, stood their ground and passed laws allowing medicinal use of marijuana within their borders. The lawmakers and citizens of those states deemed it beneficial to