Hundreds of new California laws took effect Monday with the beginning of the new year. For consumers, some are real standouts.
Let’s take a look, shall we?
Legal weed: The arrival of legal recreational marijuana is possibly the biggest change affecting the Golden State this year. Adults age 21 and older can buy pot from licensed dispensaries between the hours of 6 in the morning and 10 at night.
I’m not advocating anyone to toke up — it’s been more than 20 years since I’ve had a puff (yes, I inhaled) — but it’s about time we treated weed the same as its closest commercial cousin, alcohol.
Unless you’re an anti-pot obsessive like U.S. Atty. Gen. Jeff Sessions, you accept the scientific consensus that marijuana is not a gateway to more dangerous drugs, and is no more potentially harmful than liquor and tobacco.
More important, it’s foolish that we’ve gone for so long without regulating and taxing what is clearly a popular and commonly used product among many adults.
The legal market for pot in California is estimated at about $5 billion. Many users will continue buying black-market weed at first to avoid the 15% tax on its retail value, according to a study by the University of California Agricultural Issues Center.
But they’ll gradually come around as the regulated market becomes more common and convenient, bringing state and local governments an estimated $1 billion in tax revenue and creating more than 1,200 jobs.
State officials project that legal recreational marijuana soon will make up 61.5% of the overall market, while nearly a third of users will continue buying pot illegally and 9% will purchase medical marijuana.
The basic rule of thumb is that you can now smoke recreational pot anywhere you can smoke a cigarette, which means forget about copping a cannabis buzz at indoor workplaces, restaurants, bars, theaters and most public places. Also, no imbibing within 1,000 feet of a school, day-care center or youth center while kids are present.
It’s still illegal to drive while high or to have an open bag of pot in the car. Under the new law, you can’t smoke pot or munch marijuana edibles while driving or riding in a vehicle, punishable by a $70 fine.
Salary history: California employers no longer can ask a job applicant to reveal their past or present salary, compensation or benefits. Also, if the applicant asks, the employer must provide a pay range for the open position.
This is a big deal, as anyone who’s experienced the job-application process will tell you. Revealing your current or former pay package and not knowing the pay range for the new gig puts you at a distinct disadvantage in salary negotiations.
The new law also is intended to level the playing field for women, who are paid on average 80 cents for every dollar a guy makes, for no good reason whatsoever.
In fact, a woman working full time in California makes a median income of $43,335, compared with a median of $50,562 for a man, according to the National Partnership for Women and Families. In theory, the new law will boost the total mean pay of women statewide by almost $79 billion.
When you apply for a job, employers are prohibited from “orally or in writing, personally or through an agent,” asking about your present or previous pay.