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New Laws In 2018: Marijuana, Pets Of Divorce And More


Along with champagne and confetti, the new year also means a suite of brand-new laws going into effect in states across the country. And we're going to take a couple of minutes to hear from some of the people who will be affected by those laws.

We'll start in California, which is about to become the eighth and largest state in the union to legalize the recreational use of marijuana. That means if you're over 21, you'll be able to buy marijuana or cannabis-infused edibles at a licensed dispensary without a medical card.

DANIEL YI: It is a historic moment for California.

SUAREZ: That's Daniel Yi. He's vice president of Medmen, a medical marijuana distributor. Yi sees the new law as a boon to the legal marijuana industry.

YI: We are stocking up on product because we expect that the demand, obviously, will increase because the customer base will increase - right? - from people who needed recommendation letters from their doctors to now anyone 21 and over.

SUAREZ: But Yi says that growth won't just be the number of marijuana consumers but in how they use it.

YI: If you're thinking about using marijuana, you know, to help you fall asleep or to manage your chronic pain but you didn't want to bother and get a doctor's recommendation in California, for example, and you were popping, you know, anti-inflammatories, now it's going to be a lot easier. You can just walk into a store, if you're 21 and over, and you can buy the product.

SUAREZ: Eighteen states will be raising the minimum wage this year, including Washington state, which will also require employers to pay workers sick time. Susan Richmond is the owner of Inklings Bookshop in Yakima, Wash., where she has 16 employees.

SUSAN RICHMOND: The way we have operated at Inklings for these 17 years has been that we've given time off without pay when people need sick time. We've extended the employee discount and tried to do other things other than sick pay to keep our employees happy.

SUAREZ: Richmond says the changes won't put her out of business but will mean cutting back.

RICHMOND: I don't think most of the government understands the cash flow issues of a small business. So I guess that's what I'd like them to know - that we're not (laughter) - we're not raking in the cash here. We're trying to provide jobs for 16 people.

SUAREZ: And then there's Illinois, where a new law may make life easier for pets caught up in a divorce.

JEFFREY KNIPMEYER: It's something that people are willing to fight for.

SUAREZ: Jeffrey Knipmeyer is a family attorney based in Chicago, where he's had to go to court several times to figure out who gets the family pet.

KNIPMEYER: Up to now, the dog was treated no differently than the silverware or the television. It was just a piece of property that one side or the other had to be awarded in the divorce.

SUAREZ: With the new Illinois law, the judge will have to consider the well-being of the pet before determining its fate.

KNIPMEYER: The new statute doesn't make any explicit provision for any sort of support in the way of child support.

SUAREZ: But Knipmeyer says it may mean shared custody.

KNIPMEYER: In one way, it's no different than with children. You know, children often take two parents to provide care for them going forward 'cause one parent isn't always available. I think the same analogy can be made with pets. There are vet appointments. There's getting them to grooming. If they have pet day care that they go to, all of these things may require two people.

SUAREZ: Couples in Illinois may now want to plan ahead before they tie the knot.

KNIPMEYER: It's something that the parties could include, for example, in a prenuptial agreement - what will happen to any of pets that they acquire during the marriage? - so that you sort of plan for that in advance. In the eventuality that there was a divorce, what would you do in that situation?

SUAREZ: Just one of the many questions raised by new laws going into effect around the country New Year's Day.


KANYE WEST: (Rapping) We want prenup. We want prenup, yeah. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.