Many bills approved during the 2022 legislative session took effect this week, including new marijuana-related laws and increased penalties for carjacking and other crimes.
Beginning Aug. 1, Act 473 eliminated the odor of marijuana as probable cause for law enforcement to search a person’s home without a warrant, while Act 478 outlawed smoking or vaping the drug in a motor vehicle on state roadways.
"It shall be unlawful for the operator or any passenger in a motor vehicle, while the motor vehicle is being operated on a public highway or right-of-way, to smoke or vape any form of marijuana or a substance classified in Schedule I that is marijuana, tetrahydrocannabinol, or chemical derivatives thereof," according to the latter.
Act 473 specifically states law enforcement officers shall enforce the law "only as a secondary action when the law enforcement officer detains a driver for another violation."
Violations — considered non-moving ones that do not impact a driver’s record — come with a $100 fine.
Act 651 provides protections for state workers who legally use medical marijuana in compliance with the state’s medical marijuana program.
"No employer shall subject an employee or prospective employee to negative employment consequences based solely on a positive drug test for marijuana, marijuana components, including tetrahydrocannabinols, or marijuana metabolites if the employee or prospective employee has been clinically diagnosed as suffering from a debilitating medical condition and a licensed physician has recommended marijuana for therapeutic use by the employee in accordance with" state law, Act 651 reads.
The law does not protect employees from adverse job actions when they are impaired by marijuana at work and specifically exempts state employees who work or operate vehicles, emergency medical professionals, law enforcement, firefighters, public safety officials and state employees of the horse racing commission.
Act 127 aims to crack down on thefts of catalytic converters and engine control modules by creating a new crime and requiring salvage yards that buy and sell the parts to register with local law enforcement.
The law imposes fines and jail time for catalytic converter thefts based on value, ranging from 90 days jail and up to $1,000 fine to up to 20 years in prison and a fine of $50,000. Act 127 also includes increased penalties for repeat offenders.
Lawmakers also increased penalties for those convicted of carjacking with Act 131.
"Whoever commits the crime of carjacking when serious bodily injury results shall be imprisoned at hard labor for not less than 10 years nor more than 20 years, without benefit of parole, probation, or suspension of sentence," Act 131 reads.
The law was inspired by an elderly New Orleans woman who was killed after she was caught up in her vehicle and dragged for blocks during a carjacking this spring.
State legislators also increased penalties for those who violate protective orders while in possession of a firearm. Act 75 includes a fine of up to $1,000 and between three months and two years in jail.
Act 129 also took effect this week, which enhances penalties for anyone found guilty of battery of emergency room personnel, emergency services personnel or a healthcare professional. Convictions come with a fine of up to $1,000 and 15 days to six months in jail. Subsequent offenses come with the same fine, and a jail term of one to three years.