New laws affecting Sonomans

Having completed the proper forms, Olga Lopez and her son Rigoberto Lopez, Jr., 13, wait at the Sonoma Valley Post Office, on Thursday, Dec. 28, for help with renewing their passports. (Photo by Robbi Pengelly/Index-Tribune)


A handful of new laws took effect on Monday that will affect everything from minimum wage to jaywalking to passports to kids driving boats. Not to mention the big question… Will you be able to walk into a dispensary on Jan. 1 without medical paperwork and buy marijuana?

Here’s a quick summary of a few of the more notable new regulations.


Californians, age 21 and older, can now legally buy up to one ounce of marijuana and .28 ounces of concentrates, thanks to the passage of Prop 64.

But, according to local officials, the fact that recreational pot is legal on Jan. 1, doesn’t necessarily mean it is now legal to buy just anywhere in Sonoma County. As of Jan. 1, the County will have not permitted any recreational marijuana dispensaries in the unincorporated Valley, and the City of Sonoma has a moratorium on the sale and outdoor cultivation of cannabis.

Retailers need state and local licenses to sell, and so far only about 30 percent of the cities and counties in the state have passed regulations that will allow for the sale of recreational pot in the New Year.

“What individual cities choose to do after Jan. 1 is up to them,” said Tim Ricard, the county’s cannabis program manager.

As of today, there are no businesses legally selling cannabis in Sonoma Valley, and Ricard said that the only application received to date was incomplete.

Outside of town, Solful in Sebastopol is throwing a party on Jan. 1 to celebrate the change in the law and all that will be needed to buy there in 2018 is a valid California driver’s license showing you are 21 years of age or older.

SPARC in Sebastopol is also throwing an open-to-all “Adult Use Celebration” from 10:30 a.m. to close on Jan. 1, with free food, gifts, live music and entertainment.

Mercy Wellness in Cotati will also be welcoming all customers 21 and over in 2018. The dispensary plans to have separate areas for medical and recreational purchases.

Once you have your cannabis in hand, however, don’t forget that you can’t smoke anywhere tobacco is prohibited, including within 1,000 feet (300 meters) of a school or a daycare center when kids are around or while driving.


Four new laws are good news for local students.

AB830 permanently eliminates the California high school exit exam as a condition of graduation.

AB19 waives first-year tuition fees for first-time, full-time students who qualify for aid.

Beginning in 2018, public colleges and universities will be prohibited from collecting information about student citizenship or immigratioin status, thanks to AB699 and AB21.

And, finally, in what is promising news for Sonoma Valley girls, a new law requires that public middle and high schools where at least 40 percent of students are below the federal poverty line must now stock free pads and tampons in half of a school’s bathrooms (AB10).


On Jan. 1, California’s minimum wage increases to $10.50 per hour for employers with 25 or fewer employees and to $11 per hour for employers with 26 or more employees.


Small businesses with 20 or more employees must begin providing eligible employees up to 12 weeks of unpaid, job-protected parental leave with medical benefits, beginning in 2018. The leave must be taken within one year of the child’s birth, adoption or foster care placement. Previously, only companies with more than 50 employees were subject to these requirements.


As of Jan. 1, businesses can no longer ask job applicants about their criminal history, thanks to AB1008. The new law applies to companies with as few as five employees. Employers are also now prohibited from seeking or asking about a job applicant’s salary history, compensation or benefits. The new law also requires employers to disclose pay ranges for a position if it is requested by an applicant.


A new law allows workers licensed under the Barbering and Cosmetology Act to be paid a commission in addition to a base hourly rate if certain conditions are met. SB 490 may improve wages for local salon workers.


Beginning Jan. 1, criminals in California must give up their guns when they are convicted of a serious crime. And online ammunition purchases will no longer ship to a buyer’s home. The new gun laws were coauthored by Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom and the Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence, and subsequently approved by voters on November 2016’s statewide ballot. The new laws also include a strengthening of federal background checks.


While jaywalking is the norm in downtown Sonoma, prior to 2018, you could face a $250 fine if you entered a crosswalk when the countdown clock was flashing. Beginning Jan. 1, you’re free to enter the crosswalk at any time, as long as you finish crossing by the time the clock has counted down. (The law does not mention crossing mid-street with a wine glass in your hand.)


A new law prohibits deceptive rent-to-own leasing contract for pets that do not immediately transfer ownership of the animal to the purchaser (AB1491). In other good news for pet lovers, tenants in new housing developments that receive funds though state programs will be allowed to have one or more pets in their home thanks to AB1137.


Beginning on Jan. 1, all boaters 20 years of age and younger will be required to have a California Boater Card and take a state-approved safety course.


There are also changes in 2018 coming in how Americans will obtain, renew and use their passport.

First off, you should be able to renew your passport online by mid-2018 and be able to check the status of your passport application online or via text.

But it may also take longer to get your passport renewed in 2018. There was a surge in passport issuances in 2007 when the government made passports a requirement for travel to the Caribbean, Mexico and Canada. It’s now time for all of those passports to be renewed.

There are changes coming to California driver’s licenses as well.

Beginning Oct. 1, 2020, the federal government will require all driver licenses to be “Real ID” compliant if used as identification to board an airplane or enter most federal facilities.

California licenses have not been “Real ID” compliant but the California DMV will provide a federally compliant driver license or ID card as an option to customers beginning Jan. 22.

If you have a passport, passport card, military ID, or another form of TSA-approved identification, these documents will still be accepted to board an airplane or enter facilities.

There is no need to rush into a DMV field office. A valid California driver license or ID card can be used to board a commercial flight or enter secure federal facilities until 2020.

One final new law of note doesn’t take effect until mid-summer:


Starting in July, 2018, commercial buses like Greyhound and Megabus will require seatbelts for their passengers or face a fine. Tourist and public transit buses are not included in the law.

Contact Lorna Sheridan