8 Really Bad Laws That Just Went Into Effect

From cellphone tracking in Connecticut to gummy bear bans in Colorado and bitcoin surveillance in Japan



Every year, thousands of new laws go into effect across the country on October 1. States use the start of the fiscal year to begin enforcing these laws. A sobering number of these laws will turn out to be bad.

Federal agencies and even some foreign countries revel in imposing all new manner of unnecessary authority today. On this day, for example, the United Arab Emirates started levying a 100 percent excise tax on products like tobacco and energy drinks and 50 percent for soda today.

There are much worse laws than that. Here are eight of the worst going into effect today around the country and around the world!

Touching your phone in Oregon

From this day forward, Oregon drivers are prohibited from touching their cellphones while operating their vehicles, except to make a single swipe intended to turn a phone off. While lawmakers passed the prohibition to make it easier for cops to enforce cellphone while driving laws, the "single swipe" exception is sure to muddy that.

The law will apply to cellphones, tablets, and GPS devices, but not for police officers, of course.

"You don't want to hurt anybody else just to answer a simple text," Officer Jeremy Shaw told KOBI 5.

Gummy bear-ijuana ban in Colorado

As of today, gummy bears, chocolate bunnies, and other playfully-shaped marijuana edibles are banned in Colorado, where recreational marijuana has been legal since 2014.

Despite a steep drop in teenage marijuana use after legalization, the state Assembly continues to harbor misguided idea that it needs to ban adult products to protect children.

There is no evidence children hunger for marijuana edibles—nevertheless the new law is specific and wide-ranging in its ban on "edible marijuana-infused products in the shape of a human, animal or fruit… including shapes that resemble or contain characteristics of a realistic or fictional human, animal, or fruit, including artistic, caricature, or cartoon renderings."

You'll still be able to purchase plain-looking edibles, the law clarifying that edibles in "geometric shapes and simply fruit flavored are not considered fruit and are permissible."


Cellphone tracking in Connecticut

Among the 140 laws going into effect in Connecticut today is one that aims to regulate cellphone tracking by police agencies. Unfortunately, the law gives cops too much discretion to use the cell site simulator devices that make phone tracking possible.

Specifically, the law permits police to use such devices for 48 hours without a court order during "exigent circumstances" (despite it not taking nearly that long to obtain a warrant even in an "exigent" circumstance) and for two weeks under an "ex parte court order," which means police don't have to notify anyone about the tracking.

Legislators also brought in use of cell site simulators to intercept communications under the state's wiretap laws, allowing prosecutors to ask a three-judge panel to issue ex parte wiretap orders for them.

Enhanced sentencing for crimes against first responders

In Nevada, enhanced penalties kick in today for hate crimes committed against first responders, including police and firefighters, because they are first responders. Criminals convicted of such crimes can face between 1 and 20 years in prison on top of the sentence for the crime. The enhancement, at least, can't exceed the length of the original sentence.

Critics of hate crime laws have been warning since the 1990s that hate crimes, which rely on the speech of a suspect for proof, would end up being used by those in power to punish speech offensive to them. Last year, Louisiana became the first state to make killing a cop a hate crime. Momentum, meanwhile, is growing for a federal version of such a "blue lives matter" law.

Fracking ban in Maryland

After a two year moratorium, Maryland this year passed a complete ban on fracking, which goes into effect today. The law is not based on sound science but on rank fearmongering.

A 2015 study from Yale found that fracking does not contaminate drinking water, a popular bugaboo for fracking opponents. The Obama Environmental Protection Agency also found fracking had a negligible effect on drinking water.

Other lies about fracking have also helped to motivate opposition to fracking—fracking does not make it possible to light your drinking water on fire. Fracking fluid can't seep into groundwater and poison your tap, Fracking doesn't increase air pollution. It doesn't cause cancer. And the natural gas freed by fracking is decidedly better than coal.

Unfortunately, Maryland is the latest but unlikely the last place where hysteria has won out over science.

Continuing education for cosmetologists

The Maryland General Assembly should take a collective bow for making it twice on this list. A new law in effect today gives the State Board of Cosmetologists (yes, there is such a thing for the people who do make-up professionally) the authority to require most cosmetologists to complete continuing education classes to be renew their licenses.

At least 33 states and the District of Columbia require cosmetologists to be licensed, often requiring more than 1,000 hours of training to qualify. Maryland requires 1,500 hours or a two-year apprenticeship, which requires a license of its own.

Remove your electronics and prepare for pat-down

Starting today, the Transportation Safety Administration (TSA) will require all passengers going through security screening to remove any electronics larger than a cellphone from their bags and place them in separate bins.

Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly announced the new regulations in June, prompted by reports that terrorists were now capable of hiding bombs in large electronics. Finally, our wait is over.

A four-month delay in implementation seems excessive if the threat was as dire as the DHS suggested. On the other hand, four months of passengers getting through security checkpoints without taking out their electronics without incident suggests the threat might be less dire than DHS suggested.

Most of what the TSA does at airports is kabuki security theater. The agency has wasted billions of dollars, while perfecting the fine art of harassing travelers.

Bitcoin surveillance

Japan legalized cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin in April, and today all cryptocurrency exchanges must be registered with the country's Financial Services Agency (FSA).

The agency will monitor the exchanges' internal system and, according to the Japan Times, conduct on-site inspections as necessary. In preparation, the FSA assembled a 30-person "surveillance team" to oversee the exchanges. Such mandatory government regulation runs counter to the purpose of decentralized cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin.

Japan is separately considering a plan to create its own digital currency to completely eliminate cash, and the anonymity that comes with it, by 2020.