by BETHANY COX
New legislation in Maryland is expected to change many residents’ daily lifestyles, as the laws address an entire spectrum of issues from marijuana possession to yoga sales tax. Effective Wednesday, October 1st, the legislation enforces both stricter and more lenient policies on several major concerns.
The most controversial new policy lessens the punishment for those apprehended with 10 grams of marijuana or less, replacing potential jail time with a first-time offense $100 fine and a repeat-offense fine of up to $500.
To some residents, the law is interpreted as a significant step towards the legalization of the drug in Maryland – but to others, it is simply a small measure which prevents police from spending too much time on low-profile crime.
Another important piece of legislation addresses household domestic violence and its traumatic effect on children. The law establishes a larger prison sentence for those who commit acts of domestic abuse in the presence of a child, and lowers the amount of evidence required to secure a protective order against an abuser.
Also addressed was “Jake’s Law,” which increases the penalty for texting and driving that results in serious injury to another driver. Its namesake is five-year-old Jake Owen, who was killed in 2011 by a driver distracted by his cell phone.
In an effort to prevent more tragedies like Jake’s and to make drivers aware of the consequences of their behavior, Jake’s Law enforces a new $5,000 fine and a maximum of a year of jail time for those who cause serious or fatal injuries to others as a result of cell phone usage.
Lighter issues were highlighted as well, including the new 5.25% sales tax on businesses such as gyms and yoga studios and a 6% sales tax on purchases made through Amazon.
Paid vacation time for Washington, D.C employees is also addressed, and has been extended to up to 8 weeks for employees who need a leave of absence under specific circumstances. Other changes include an increase in penalties for repeated DUI offenses and new rules requiring drivers to move a lane over to allow tow trucks to respond quickly to emergency situations.