236 years ago, the colonies residing in America decided they no longer wanted to be part of the British Empire. A small group of men chose to lead a revolution against the biggest government in the known world. They did this to gain freedom from governmental authority. After winning the revolution and becoming a new country, states were established. These states eventually were given their own individual power and constitution to uphold. The tenth amendment in the Constitution states that, “The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.” This resulted in state governments that worked in accordance with federal laws, but left open to interpretation many issues that Americans would face.
While the Federal government holds power with the three branches of government; the Supreme Court, President, and Congress, there are certain areas they have no jurisdiction. For example, the federal government does not have the power to disperse the U.S. military onto U.S. soil. The federal government cannot use any national defense against U.S. citizens, regardless of the state, doing so would be unconstitutional. Menial powers such as setting the legal driving laws, the sale of alcohol, fines and prison sentences are all set by State governments.
In recent years the legality of drugs and same-sex marriage has become a hot button topic for many States. The citizens of California were able to get medical marijuana legalized in the state, although the federal government using the FBI has continued to harass and jail those using the plant. However, they have failed to succeed in legalizing recreational use of the drug in the state. Same-sex marriage has had less of a struggle in dealing with federal agents but nonetheless has been met with many challenges from the federal government.
All of this might lead one to wonder, really what power the local state government truly possesses. Well, all governmental power is determined by the Constitution. If the federal government decides something is constitutional, according to the tenth amendment, it is up to each state’s Supreme Court to either agree or disagree with the ruling. Therefore, state power can justly be determined by the people. What the states decide to uphold or disregard, structures the entire state’s laws, regulations, and economic endeavors. Without the tenth amendment the United States would be indistinguishable from many other countries the world over. How long this amendment is upheld is yet to be determined, however.