Different States, Different Laws?

Yes, different states in the USA are governed by different laws. There are many reasons for this, and in the paragraphs below we will cover some basics on why a single country is run by different laws in certain parts of it.

Federal law versus state law

Just because each state is a sovereign entity to some extent it doesn’t mean that every state in the US isn’t run by laws applicable to all of them. A federal law is a law created by the federal government and it has jurisdiction over all state laws with a few exceptions. It can be said that a federal law is a nationwide set of rules that covers major issues like bankruptcy, civil rights, fraud, money laundering, etc. State laws can differ between each state for things such as family matters, real estate, gun control, gambling, and others.

What are the reasons for this?

There are multiple factors included when a single state is run by certain laws. These factors can include natural resources, geographical location, demographics, historical operations of business and commerce, etc. Community standards and history play an important role in this as well, and that may explain, for example, why some states allow same sex marriage, and others don’t.

Conflicting laws

Sometimes a state law and a federal law might contradict each other. There are three different types of conflicting laws:

  • When a state law allows more civil rights to a person than the federal law, the state law prevails. Back to the same-sex marriage, this basically means that if the federal law doesn’t recognize it, you are legally allowed to do it in a state that does.
  • When a state law imposes certain responsibility rules, the federal law has no jurisdiction over it. So if a federal government has no issue with you riding a bike with no helmet, and a state in which you are riding does, you must follow the state law.
  • When a state law and a federal law are in total conflict over a certain issue, a federal law is stronger. This is usually the case with recreational drugs such as marijuana, where some states recognize it as legal, but the country as a whole doesn’t.


Here are some examples for you understand how different states run by different laws.

Gun Control

In Texas, a person with no previous criminal charges can purchase a gun at any store, while in states like California, you need a special licence to carry.


Some states have legalized marijuana recently, either for recreational or medicinal purposes. However, a federal law doesn’t recognize marijuana as a legal substance, therefore all United States residents are legally not allowed to possess or use marijuana.


States like Nevada and Louisiana have legalized casino gambling statewide, while some states prohibit some forms of betting. Also, legal age for gambling can vary between states. Some put the legal limit at 18, others at 21.