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Study Notes

States' Rights

AQA, Edexcel, OCR, IB

Last updated 22 Mar 2021

In the United States, states’ rights refers directly to the powers that a reserved exclusively for the states rather than the Federal Government. These are sometimes referred to as reserved powers.

States can claim powers under the 10th Amendment which states that ‘powers not delegated to the US by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the states, are reserved to the States respectively’

Some typical powers that states have include the issuing of licenses, regulation of intrastate matters, conduct elections, establish layers of local government, ratify amendments to the constitution, provide education and healthcare to the state populations and provide law and order.

This situation can give rise to certain anomalies whereby somethings are illegal in some states, but legal in others. A prime example of this is the legalisation of cannabis for recreational use. Since 2012, Washington and Colorado have legalised cannabis for this purpose, yet other states have not.

It is important to remember that through the Supremacy clause in the Constitution, federal law takes priority over states laws.

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