New 2017 Laws Coming Into Effect

Marijuana Plants

It may be hard to believe, but tumultuous 2016 is finally coming to a close. Look out for new laws coming up in the new year. 

Smoking pot

Under Proposition 64, which passed Nov. 8, Californians 21 and over can possess, transport, buy and use up to one ounce of cannabis for recreational purposes and allow individuals to grow as many as six plants. The measure includes the legalization of retail sales of marijuana. The state has another year to begin issuing licenses for recreational retailers 

Gun control

Beginning Jan. 1, background checks will be required to purchase ammunition and Californians may not buy more than one long gun in a 30-day period. Sacramento lawmakers also approved legislation banning possession of high-capacity magazines and long guns with “bullet buttons” that make it easier for shooters to swap magazines. The list of groups who may request gun violence restraining orders now includes mental health workers, employers, co-workers and school employees. Owners of guns with protruding pistol grips or a folding or telescoping stock will need to register them with the California Department of Justice. Law enforcement officers are now required to follow the same rules as civilians by securely storing handguns in a lockbox out of plain view or in the trunk of an unattended vehicle. 

Bathroom laws

Gender-neutral bathrooms have made headlines elsewhere, but in California the legislature quietly passed Assembly Bill 1732, requiring all single-toilet bathrooms in businesses and public agencies to be gender neutral. 


The state minimum wage will increase from $10 per hour to $10.50 for businesses with more than 26 employees — increasing incrementally to $15 by 2022. Addressing wage equality, Assembly Bill 1676 requires an employer not pay a woman less than her male colleagues because of her prior salary. Paid parental leave — up to 12 weeks — is now law for K-12 and community college employees.


California is now one of the first states to define “lane splitting” — the practice of motorcyclists squeezing between lanes of traffic, moving or stopped. A bill gives the California Highway Patrol the authority to develop guidelines to keep motorcyclists safe; in essence, it is a prelude to a new future law.

Although texting while driving is already forbidden, a new law prohibits drivers from using smart phones for any other purpose behind the wheel — unless they’re in hands-free mode. 

Hunger and homelessness

Community colleges with shower facilities are now required to make them available to homeless students. Public and private colleges that offer food service must apply to participate in a state-funded program that provides meals to the homeless.

Doctors and drugs

Doctors who recklessly prescribe psychiatric drugs risk losing their license and there will be more transparency and tracking of mental health services for foster children with new legislation. 


Powdered alcohol — it’s a real thing — is now illegal, but serving small amounts of beer or wine is now legal at beauty salons and barber shops as long as it’s before 10 p.m. and free of charge.

Tenants’ rights

Landlords are now prohibited from showing, renting or leasing a vacant unit that they know has a bedbug infestation.

Consumer protection

Rental car companies will not be able to rent out cars subject to a manufacturer’s recall until the vehicle has been repaired.

Sex crimes

A new law broadens the definition of rape to include “all forms of nonconsensual sexual assault.” Also, a conviction of sexually assaulting an unconscious person will mandate a prison sentence. Rape, sexual assault and other sex offenses committed in 2017 will no longer be subject to a statute of limitations. Sex workers under the age of 18 will be classified as victims, not criminals, and therefore cannot be arrested for prostitution. 

Children’s safety

School sports safety rules on concussions and removing athletes with head injuries from play will be extended to youth sports organizations. 

Parents are now required to put babies younger than two, under 40 inches tall and under 40 pounds in a rear-facing car seat.


California public schools may no longer use mascots identified as “Redskins,” which has been deemed racist and insensitive to Native Americans.


Women who become pregnant while on welfare can now apply for benefits to cover the new child as well as other minors who may have previously been excluded. 

Park names

It is too late for the old Ahwahnee Hotel in Yosemite, but now businesses that win California State Park concession contracts cannot trademark names associated with the park.


Contractors are now required to tell the state licensing board about past convictions for felonies or other crimes that could affect their work.

Right to try

Terminally ill Californians may use experimental drugs not yet FDA approved when other treatment options have been exhausted.