New laws: What’s legal, what’s not

Delegate Matt Fariss hopes industrial hemp will be a crop that helps revitalize Southside, and now it’s legal for universities to grow it for research.
Illustration Jason Crosby Delegate Matt Fariss hopes industrial hemp will be a crop that helps revitalize Southside, and now it’s legal for universities to grow it for research. Illustration Jason Crosby

Virginians may begin to see hemp production and more public breastfeeding with the new laws that went into effect July 1, several of which were inspired by local events and people.

Jesse Matthew, the man accused of killing UVA student Hannah Graham and linked by DNA evidence to the case of slain Virginia Tech student Morgan Harrington, prompted legislation for DNA collection for certain misdemeanors, a measure pushed by Albemarle Sheriff Chip Harding. The Matthew case also prompted a law requiring prominent notation on college transcripts of those under investigation for sexual violence. The discredited Rolling Stone article about rape at UVA resulted in a couple of laws that change how sexual assault on campus is reported.

Other laws span topics ranging from how the Virginia Alcoholic Beverage Control is run—an authority replaces its board—to coalbed methane gas to special license plates.

Industrial hemp

In a bill carried by Delegate Matt Fariss, whose district includes southern Albemarle, industrial hemp can be grown for university-affiliated research projects. Licensed growers can’t be prosecuted for possession, but restrictions ensure Virginia is not the new Colorado. The concentration of tetrahydrocannabinol, which is responsible for the “high” felt when using cannabis, within industrial hemp cannot exceed the federally mandated level of 0.3 percent.

Medical marijuana

While possession of weed is considered a Class I misdemeanor and punishable by up to 30 days in jail, a $500 fine for a first time offense in Virginia and loss of a driver’s license for six months, medical marijuana got an OK to treat epilepsy if it’s in the form of cannabidiol oil or THC-A oil issued by a medical practitioner.

Unfriend your boss

Workers need not censor their Twitter status after a rough day at the office, as boss access to applications such as Facebook and Instagram has been significantly limited. Employers can no longer demand that current or future employees disclose their social media passwords. The law also stipulates that employers cannot require an employee to add them to their list of contacts, meaning fewer “likes” from the former and a lot more privacy for the latter.

Tailgating bikes

Drivers need to be cautious when trying to catch a glimpse of these specialized plates, however, because motorists are prohibited from following other vehicles, including non-motorized vehicles such as bikes and mopeds, “more closely than is necessary” —or what the road-raging-guy in front of you calls tailgating.

Specialized plates

Do we really need more special license plates? The Mathias Bill authorizes license plates with the legend “Cure Childhood Cancer.” Newport News Shipbuilding and recipients of the Legion of Merit Medal get their own plates, too.

Two state songs better than one?

After “Carry Me Back To Old Virginny” was removed as Virginia’s state song for racist lyrics in 1997, the Old Dominion was without an anthem—until now, when we have two. The General Assembly made “Our Great Virginia,” with lyrics by Mike Greenly and arranged by Jim Papoulis, the official traditional state song, and “Sweet Virginia Breeze,” by Robbin Thompson and Steve Bassett, the official pop song.

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