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New Laws for the New Year: California Legislative Changes for 2018

Several new California laws took effect on January 1, 2018. While the legalization of recreational marijuana is generating the most "buzz," several other changes will impact California residents in the new year.

Recreational Marijuana Legalization

Voters approved Proposition 64 back in 2016. However, the sale and cultivation of recreational-use marijuana did not become legal in California until January 1, 2018. Under the new law, adults 21 and older can now buy marijuana for recreational use from a licensed dispensary.

The number of drugged driving crashes is projected to climb following the enactment of the Adult Use of Marijuana Act. As we have repeatedly discussed on our San Diego Injury Blog, marijuana can impair drivers. Just like alcohol, drugs can slow your reaction time and decision-making ability. Studies confirm that driving while under the influence of marijuana can interfere with attentiveness, as well as the perception of time and speed.

In addition, the higher the levels of THC, the greater the risks drivers take while behind the wheel.

It is important to highlight that while marijuana consumption in private homes will be legal, consuming marijuana will be illegal while operating a vehicle. California lawmakers specifically passed legislation clarifying that smoking or ingesting marijuana or any marijuana product while driving, or while riding as a passenger in a motor vehicle being driven on a California roadway, is punishable as an infraction.

Traffic Safety Changes

Several other new laws are intended to improve safety on California roadways. In an effort to deter impaired driving, AB 711 will allow beer manufacturers and other businesses to partner with ride share companies and taxi services to provide vouchers or promo codes for discounted rides.

California also passed additional legislation to improve bus safety. SB 20, which does not take effect until July 1, 2018 requires anyone riding on a tour bus to be properly restrained by seat belts if the bus is equipped with them. It also mandates that parents make sure children are properly restrained by a seat belt or child passenger restraint system that meets federal safety standards. Violations of this law will be punishable by a fine.

Protections for Nursing Home Residents

All residents of assisted-living facilities and nursing homes are at risk for elder abuse. Lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) seniors are particularly vulnerable to both discrimination and mistreatment. In response, California lawmakers have established the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Long-Term Care Facility Residents' Bill of Rights.

Among other things, SB 219 makes it unlawful for any long-term care facility to take specified actions wholly or partially on the basis of a person's actual or perceived sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression, or human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) status. Prohibited actions include, among others, willfully and repeatedly failing to use a resident's preferred name or pronouns after being clearly informed of the preferred name or pronouns, or denying admission to a long-term care facility, transferring or refusing to transfer a resident within a facility or to another facility, or discharging or evicting a resident from a facility.

Drug Transparency Law

In October, Gov. Jerry Brown signed legislation aimed at making drug prices more transparent. Under Senate Bill 17, pharmaceutical companies must provide the state and health insurance companies with a 60-day notice if prices are raised more than 16 percent over a two-year period. They are also required to provide justification for the price hikes.

The new law is a great first step to improving drug cost transparency and will hopefully discourage pharmaceutical companies from arbitrarily raising prices. Unfortunately, the drug lobby is not done fighting the new transparency requirements. In December, the pharmaceutical industry filed suit in federal court. The suit alleges that the law violates the U.S. Constitution's Commerce Clause and free speech protections.

We will continue to track safety legislation that impacts the daily lives of California residents. For additional updates, please follow our San Diego Injury Blog.