On Election Day, Colorado and Washington became the first states to legalize marijuana for recreational use. Whether residents in those states ever get to light up legally remains to be seen.
Surely the federal government, which still considers marijuana as an illegal drug, will have something to say about the issue. Federal law would trump state law in this case, and someone will surely enforce federal law.
After all, remember the brouhaha when in 2007 North Dakota approved legislation allowing farmers to legally grow industrial hemp in the state? Hemp is a cousin of marijuana, but contains just a trace of tetrahydrocannabinol compared to marijuana. Yet farmers in this state thus far have been banned from growing hemp, which can be used to make a variety of products, including rope and clothing. Potential hemp farmers must be licensed by the state of North Dakota and approved by the federal government, and so far, the Drug Enforcement Agency refuses to approve any permits. So hemp farming is legal under North Dakota law, but banned under federal law.
We would expect the federal government to fully enforce the nation's laws against marijuana use for recreational purposes in Washington and Colorado as vigorously as it has fought the benign law that allowed hemp to be grown in North Dakota.