Starting on October 1 (this Wednesday), a number of new laws take effect in Maryland. They involve drugs, discrimination, domestic violence, and driving. Read on to be reminded how not to run afoul of the law:
Marijuana decriminalization. Stoners, rejoice: As of this week, if you’re caught with less than 10 grams of marijuana, you’ll face civil charges (instead of criminal ones). First time offenders can expect a $100 fine, rising to $500 the third time you get caught.
A bottle of Jack Daniels is 80 proof, meaning it contains 40% alcohol by volume. Grain alcohol is 190 proof, which means it’s twice as strong as whiskey. As you can imagine (or may have experienced, back in your wilder days), any drink that’s 95% alcohol can get you very drunk, very quickly. Which is exactly why Maryland lawmakers are trying to ban it.
In case you haven’t heard a few new driving-related laws go into effect tomorrow, October 1 — so sit up, pay attention, and for god’s sake, put away your cell phone while you’re driving. Some things to keep an eye out for:
- Driving and talking on your cell phone will now be a primary offense. That means a cop can pull you over for this reason alone, rather than just adding this infraction to a previous charge. The fee has also been upped to $75 (from $40); if it’s your second violation, you’ll have to pony up $125, and $175 for your third.
Do you follow the various Baltimore history blogs that are out there? If you don’t, you’re missing out on a lot of great historical weirdness.
- Throwing stones in public – FINED, $27
- Running wagons without license numbers – FINED, $27-$50
- Improper conduct in the presence of ladies – FINED, $121
- Throwing a nuisance in the street – FINED, $27
- Killing or attempting to kill, or in any manner injure or molest sparrows, robins, wrens, or other small insectivorous birds in the city of Baltimore, to include their birdhouses – FINE, $85 per offense
David Paschal was a 38 year-old history teacher at Elkins High School in Arkansas when he began sleeping with one of his 18 year-old students. Pretty skeevy, yes — but no longer illegal, since the Arkansas Supreme Court overturned its law banning sexual contact between teachers and students…as long as the students are 18.
The law was there to protect students from teachers who might use their age and authority to start inappropriate relationships. But the Court found the law unconstitutional for criminalizing sexual contact between consenting adults. Paschal, the history teacher, is currently serving a 30-year sentence for his consensual relationship. “I think that this case does not necessarily say a teacher can do that and keep their job,” said Paschal’s lawyer, Casey Copeland. “I think the loss of job and loss of teacher’s license might be appropriate for that, but it’s not appropriate to put someone in jail for 30 years.”
First of all, so I can buy a bottle of wine to have with dinner without having to go to an entirely different store. (I grew up in Virginia, and even after five years in Baltimore, this no-alcohol-in-grocery-stores thing seems barbaric to me.) But more importantly: it might save some lives.
The logic is a little complicated, so bear with me. A recent study looked at states’ rates of traffic fatalities, and compared them with rates of wine consumption. States where drinkers overwhelmingly preferred beer and spirits had more traffic fatalities than states where wine consumption was higher. This makes sense, since wine is involved in only about 10 percent of binge drinking episodes. Beer? about 66 percent.
Here’s where the grocery stores come in: in states where you can buy a nice Shiraz along with your brussel sprouts and Windex — as opposed to states, like Maryland, where you have to visit a special store — wine prices are lower and wine consumption is higher. So why not let grocery stores stock wine, and watch Maryland’s wine consumption rise and its traffic fatalities fall? Sounds win-win to me.