New laws in the Commonwealth

Published 8:00 am Friday, July 14, 2023

Earlier this year, the Virginia General Assembly passed several laws that went into effect on July 1. New laws included everything from bans on TikTok, and blue headlights, to naming the Chincoteague Pony as the Commonwealth’s first official pony.

NEW RULES FOR HEMP PRODUCTS

House Bill 2294, also known as Senate Bill 903, will impose restrictions on the THC levels in hemp products and industrial hemp extracts sold in retail. The THC content will be limited to 0.3% and two milligrams per package. However, if the product or extract contains CBD in an amount at least 25 times greater than the THC, more than two milligrams of THC will be allowed. Hemp processors will be prohibited from selling industrial hemp or any substance containing an industrial hemp extract if they have knowledge or reason to believe that it will be used in a way that violates the THC limits. Virginia Governor Glenn Youngkin supported this legislation as a means to address the sale of Delta-8, a product that the Food & Drug Administration has deemed potentially harmful to health.

VIRGINIA’S OFFICIAL PONY

Additionally, lawmakers have passed a bill designating the Chincoteague Pony, native to Chincoteague Island in Virginia, as the official pony of the state.

TIKTOK BAN ON GOVERNMENT DEVICES

Starting from July 1, employees or members of a “public body,” such as state lawmakers, city council representatives, and school board representatives, are prohibited from downloading or using TikTok and WeChat on government devices or while connected to any state-owned network. This ban applies to various devices including phones, desktop computers, laptops, tablets, and other internet-connected devices.

MAKING FALSE 911 REPORTS

Under House Bill 1572, also known as Senate Bill 1291, the act of making false 911 reports is considered a misdemeanor. However, if someone is seriously injured or killed as a result of the false report, it becomes a felony. Specifically, the offense is classified as a class 1 misdemeanor when false information is knowingly reported to emergency personnel, leading to an emergency response.

If the false report results in an emergency response and causes serious harm to someone, it is considered a class 6 felony. Furthermore, if anyone is killed due to the false report, it is classified as a class 5 felony.

‘MOVE OVER’ LAW EXPANDED TO COVER STOPPED DRIVERS

House Bill 1932, also known as Senate Bill 982, mandates that drivers must change lanes or reduce speed when passing stationary vehicles with activated hazard warning signals, caution signs, or properly lit flares or torches. This requirement is applicable on specific highways where it is safe and reasonable to do so. Failure to comply with this requirement will result in a traffic infraction.

BLUE HEADLIGHTS NO MORE

Additionally, aftermarket modifications that give headlights a blue-light appearance are now prohibited on various types of vehicles, including cars, motorcycles, bicycles, mopeds, and scooters.

FENTANYL MIXTURES DEEMED ‘WEAPON OF TERRORISM’

Under House Bill 1682, which is also known as Senate Bill 1188, any mixture or substance containing even a traceable amount of fentanyl will be deemed a weapon of terrorism. The intentional manufacturing or distribution of these substances will be considered a class 4 felony.

CHANGES TO HOW SCHOOL

SYSTEMS ADDRESS BULLYING

Furthermore, House Bill 1592 necessitates that public school principals or their representatives inform parents within 24 hours if their child is involved in an alleged bullying incident. Previously, principals were only required to notify parents of any investigation into alleged bullying within five school days.

WITNESS REQUIREMENT FOR

ABSENTEE BALLOTS REMOVED

House Bill 1948 has replaced the witness requirement for absentee ballots with a new requirement. Now, people are required to provide the last four digits of their social security number and birth year.

POLICE-ORDERED CURFEWS

This change gives more authority to local law enforcement chiefs. They can now impose curfews for up to 24 hours in case of an imminent threat of civil commotion or disturbance like a riot that poses a clear and present danger.

DRONES OVER STATE PRISONS

Effective July 1, a ban will be in place for people operating unmanned aircraft systems, including drones, from dropping items within any state or local correctional facility or juvenile correctional center without consent. Additionally, the new law prohibits using these devices to capture video or images of incarcerated individuals in those facilities. Violators may face a Class 1 misdemeanor charge.