New laws in the new year: Cannabis is mostly legal in California

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Marijuana laws are just a few among nearly 900 new laws that took effect on Jan. 1 in California

By Reggie Ellis @Reggie_SGN

TULARE COUNTY – Monday marked a monumental moment in California history, and for better or for worse, the future of the state’s public finances, safety, and health are married to marijuana.

Passed by voters in November 2016 election, Proposition 64 legalized recreational use of marijuana statewide. The personal use of the drug took effect immediately but retail sales and commercial cultivation of marijuana were not allowed until Jan. 1. But what does that mean, exactly? It depends on where you live.

A few things are certain. Anyone age 21 and older can now legally purchase up to one ounce of marijuana or marijuana concentrate for recreational use from a retailer licensed through the state. But in order to obtain a state license, a retailer must first obtain a local license from a city or county government. The only place where marijuana retailers can open shop is in Woodlake. Two retailers have already obtained conditional use permits to operate dispensaries – Green Been Pharm on Naranjo Boulevard and Valley Pure on Valencia Boulevard. The two must now apply for state licensing with the California Department of Food and Agriculture’s CalCannabis program, which began granting temporary commercial cannabis licenses for cultivators, nurseries and processors on Jan. 1.

Woodlake is also one of the few places where it is legal to grow more than the six plants allowed per residence. Both Woodlake and Farmersville have begun the process to allow commercial cultivators to open, with Farmersville the only jurisdiction to set a tax rate for growers. During its Dec. 11 meeting, the Farmersville City Council set the tax rate at $12 per square foot or 8.75% of gross sales, whichever is greater, well below the $25 per square foot or 10% of sales allowed under the law. On Dec. 20, the city council decided to charge growers 25% more than the cost of processing their application as an administrative fee. There is no set amount for applications because each application will require different amounts of time to process.

Farmersville also took additional steps to regulate personal use of marijuana. While every California resident 21 and older is allowed to grow up to six plants in their home, Proposition 64 allows a lot of leeway in how local jurisdictions mitigate any negative effects, such as odor and theft.

Before growing even one plant of marijuana inside their home, Farmersville residents will have to obtain a City issued permit. The permit process includes a home inspection to ensure that electrical component and lighting are up to code and to prevent conditions that could cause mold.

While there is still a lot of issues to be worked out in the era of marijuana, any easy way to track marijuana laws is to compare it with another legal, mind-altering substance – alcohol. Marijuana, like alcohol, cannot be consumed in public places and, as of Jan. 1, cannot be smoked while driving or riding in a car. SB 65 closed a loophole in Prop. 64 to prohibit smoking or ingesting marijuana in a vehicle.

The new laws regarding marijuana are just a few of the nearly 900 bills signed by Gov. Jerry Brown that take effect this year. Below is a list of laws which took effect on Jan. 1 unless otherwise noted.

Driving Laws

  • Window Tinting (AB 1303): Drivers with certain medical conditions will be allowed to tint vehicle windshields and front and rear windows. A dermatologist certification will be required to show the driver has a medical condition, such as Lupus, that makes them sensitive to ultraviolet rays.
  • Buses and Seatbelts (SB 20): Beginning July 1, 2018, this law requires a passenger on a bus equipped with seat belts to be properly restrained by a safety belt. This law also prohibits a parent, legal guardian, or chartering party to transport on a bus, or permit to be transported on a bus, a child who is at least 8 years of age but under 16 years of age, unless they are properly restrained by a safety belt or an appropriate child passenger restraint system that meets federal safety standards. A violation of these provisions is an infraction punishable by a fine.
  • License Renewal (AB 503): Prohibits vehicle registration renewal and driver license issuance or renewal for having unpaid parking penalties and fees. The law creates a process for low-income Californians with outstanding parking violations to repay their fines and penalties prior to the parking violation being reported to the DMV. The law also allows the registered owner of a vehicle to file for Planned Non-Operation status when unpaid parking penalties are on the vehicle’s record. It also allows for someone with outstanding parking penalties and fees, to obtain or renew a driver license.
  • Disabled Placards and Plates (SB 611): Requires applicants to provide proof of true full name and birth date. The law also will limit the number of replacement placards an applicant can request without obtaining a medical certification to four in two years. It also requires the applicant to return a renewal notice by mail every six years. Currently, all permanent disabled placards expire in June 2019 and they are automatically renewed every two years. The placards expiring in June 2023 will be the first batch of placards subject to renewal. Applicants will not be required to obtain a medical certification as part of the renewal process.
  • Motorcycle Training Courses (AB 1027): This law authorizes the DMV to accept a certificate of satisfactory completion of any motorcyclist-training program approved by the California Highway Patrol in lieu of the required motorcycle skills test. Applicants for an original motorcycle license or motorcycle endorsement under 21 years of age continue to be required to complete a novice motorcyclist-training program.
  • Firefighter License Plates (AB 1338): Allows a surviving spouse, domestic partner, or child of a deceased firefighter or deceased retired firefighter to independently apply for and receive a special license plate for their vehicle.
  • Road Maintenance (SB 1): Requires the DMV to begin collecting the Transportation Improvement Fee (TIF) ranging from $25 – $175, based on the vehicle’s current value, at the time of registration or renewal. The law also requires the department, beginning July 1, 2020, to collect a Road Improvement Fee for zero-emission vehicles with a model year of 2020 or later.

Workplace Laws

  • Minimum Wage (SB 3): The state minimum wage is now $10.50 per hour for employers with 25 or fewer employees and $11 per hour for those with at least 26 employees.
  • New Parent Leave Act (SB 63): Requires small businesses with 20 or more employees to provide eligible employees up to 12 weeks of unpaid, job-protected leave to bond with a new child – leave that must be taken within one year of the child’s birth, adoption or foster care placement.
  • Ban the Box (AB 1008): Prohibits employers with four or more employees from asking about criminal history information on job applications and from inquiring about or considering criminal history at any time before a conditional offer of employment has been made. There are limited exemptions for certain positions, such as those where a criminal background check is required by federal, state or local law. Once a conditional offer has been made, a criminal conviction can only deny employment if: 1) it is determined that the conviction has a direct and adverse affect on employment; 2) written notice of this reason must be give to the applicant who must be given the opportunity to respond; 3) after the response is considered the applicant must a receive a written notice of the final decision to deny employment.
  • Salary History (AB 168): Bans employers from asking about a job applicant’s prior salary, compensation or benefits and bans employers from relying on salary history as a factor to determine whether to hire or how much to pay the applicant. The law also requires employers to provide the pay scale for the position upon request.
  • Sexual Harassment (SB 396): California employers with at least 50 employees must provide supervisors with two hours of sexual harassment prevention training every two years that discusses harassment based on gender identity, gender expression and sexual orientation. The law also requires employers to display a poster on transgender rights from the Department of Fair Employment and Housing.
  • Farm Labor Training (SB 295): Requires that sexual harassment training for farm labor contractors must be conducted or interpreted in a language understood by the employee and that the materials must be pre-approved by the Labor Commissioner.
  • Unpaid Wages (AB 1701): All private construction contracts are liable for unpaid wages, benefits or contributions owed by a subcontractor to a laborer who worked under the contract.
  • Workers’ Comp (AB 44): Requires employers to provide a nurse case manager to advocate for employees injured while working during an act of terrorism, but only after the governor declares a state of emergency.
  • Medical Billing (SB 489): Extends the billing deadline for workers’ compensation providers of emergency treatment services from 30 days to 180 days.
  • Workers’ Comp Exemptions (SB 189): Clarifies when owners, officers, members of boards of directors, general partners and managing members may be excluded from workers’ comp laws. This law takes effect on July 1, 2018.

Immigration Laws

  • Sanctuary State (SB 54): Restricts local law enforcement agencies from communicating with federal immigration authorities about people in custody, except those previously convicted of felonies in the past 15 years.
  • Immigration Detention Centers (SB 29): Prohibits new contracts between local governments and corporations that run immigration detention centers.
  • Worksite Immigration Enforcement (AB 450): Prohibits employers from giving federal immigration agents access to non-public areas of the business, employee records without a subpoena or warrant, give employees 72 hours notice of any inspections of I-9 forms and then notify that employee and their union representation in writing if there were any deficiencies in their documentation within 72 hours of the inspection.
  • Student Immigration Status (AB 699 & AB 21): Prohibits public schools, including community colleges, California State University and University of California campuses, from collecting information about student citizenship or immigration status and that of their families.

Health Care Laws

  • LGBT Care (SB 219): Prohibits long term care facilities from refusing to use a Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender (LGBT) resident’s preferred name or pronoun or deny them admission because of their gender identity or sexual orientation.
  • Whistleblower Violations (AB 1102): Increases the fine for a violation of whistleblower protections in healthcare facilities from $20,000 to $75,000.
  • Feminine Hygiene (AB 10): Requires public middle and high schools with a high percentage of low-income students to provide free feminine hygiene products in half of the school’s bathrooms.
  • Medical Records (SB 575): Allows low-income residents to receive free copies of their medical records when applying for public benefit programs such as Medi-Cal, CalWORKs, CalFresh and veterans benefits.

Pet Laws

  • Rent to Own Pets (AB 1491): Prohibits deceptive rent-to-own or leasing contracts for pet dogs or cats that do not immediately transfer ownership of the animal to the purchaser.
  • Pets Housing (AB 1137): Tenants in new housing developments will be allowed to have one or more pets in their home if the development receives financing through state programs.

Sex Crimes

  • Sexual Extortion (SB 500): Expands existing extortion laws to punish perpetrators who obtain sexually explicit images of someone and threaten to distribute them unless the victim provides more sexually explicit images or performs sexual acts.
  • Safe at Home (SB 597): Expands the existing Safe at Home law — which already offers victims of domestic violence, sexual assault and stalking a free post office box, mail forwarding service and a confidential address to ensure their safety — to include victims of sex trafficking.

Education

  • Community Colleges (AB 19): Waives tuition fees for one academic year to first-time, full-time students who qualify for financial aid under a FAFSA or California Dream Act application.
  • High School Exit Exam (AB 830): California scrapped the high school exit exam in 2015. This law permanently eliminates it as a condition of graduation.

Guns

  • Ammunition Sales (AB 693): Requires ammunition be purchased in person through an authorized vendor. Also requires that the transfer of ammunition to be done through a licensed dealer. Online sales are allowed, but the ammunition must be shipped to a licensed vendor.
  • Open Carry Guns (AB 7): Closes a loophole in existing laws to prohibit gun owners from carrying unloaded shotguns or rifles in unincorporated areas of a county where there is a shooting ban

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