Hundreds of new laws take effect in Virginia, Maryland

The start of July every year is when recently passed laws take effect in Maryland and Virginia, and hundreds of laws in both states officially went on the books Thursday.

Virginia

Virginia enacted significant changes, including the legalization of recreational marijuana.

People at least 21 years old can now possess up to an ounce of the drug. Selling marijuana will still be illegal, and smoking pot in public will not be allowed, either.

“This is not going to generate some ‘ganja fest’ at Jiffy Lube pavilion out in the parking lot, because that is smoking in public,” Sen. Scott Surovell (D-Fairfax) said. “Just like you can’t drink in public, you can’t smoke in public under this.”

Retail sales aren’t set to begin until 2024, so until then, Virginians will not be able to legally obtain marijuana unless they grow it themselves or receive it as a gift from someone else who grows it.

Virginia abolished the death penalty and gave people convicted in criminal jury trials the option to be sentenced by a judge rather than a jury, an option that was already allowed in every other state except Kentucky.

Anyone convicted of assaulting a family or household member is prohibited from purchasing or possessing a gun for three years. Virginians are also banned from carrying a gun in state buildings, the capitol and on state capitol grounds.

Maryland

Maryland repealed its state song, a Civil War-era call to arms for the Confederacy against “Northern scum” that refers to President Abraham Lincoln as a despot, The Associated Press reported.

The song, set to the traditional seasonal tune of “O, Tannenbaum,” was written as a poem in 1861 by James Ryder Randall. It was adopted as the state song in 1939. Maryland lawmakers have tried to replace it since 1974.

Maryland established a state-mandated system to compensate wrongly convicted felons who spent time behind bars, and the state expanded its 211 mental health crisis call center so counselors can periodically check in with people who need support.

The minimum wage went up Thursday in Montgomery County, rising from $14 an hour to $15 an hour for businesses with more than 50 employees. It went from $13.25 an hour to $14 for businesses with 50 or fewer employees. For businesses with 10 or fewer employees, the minimum wage went from $13 an hour to $13.50.

The District saw a slight increase in its minimum wage, going from $15 an hour to $15.20.

Nick Iannelli

Nick Iannelli can be heard covering developing and breaking news stories on WTOP.

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