New laws taking effect in Maryland

ANNAPOLIS — A ban on grain alcohol sales and new laws aimed at helping victims of crime and their family members are taking effect in Maryland.

The new laws, which go on the books Tuesday, include a ban on the sale of alcohol that is 190-proof and stronger. A proof of 190 translates to 95 percent alcohol content. The law had strong backing from leaders of colleges, who said grain alcohol provides a cheap way for students to get heavily intoxicated very quickly before they know what hits them.

“This is a product that college presidents identified as a substantial problem on their campuses,” said David Jernigan, an associate professor at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. “It packs a wallop that is easily disguised.”

More than a dozen states have passed similar laws, including neighboring Virginia, West Virginia and Pennsylvania.

A bill banning Vaportinis, which make it possible to inhale alcohol through a glass straw, also is taking effect Wednesday. A Vaportini device has a glass sphere filled with alcohol and a candle beneath it. The heat evaporates the alcohol, and the user inhales the vapors. The alcohol is absorbed directly into the bloodstream through the lungs. The law makes it a misdemeanor to use such a device.

Meanwhile, some new laws taking effect loosen restrictions on alcoholic beverages. For example, a new law will allow hair salon customers in Montgomery County to have a glass of wine or champagne. Also in Montgomery County, lawmakers passed measures to make the county more attractive for microbreweries. One removes a restriction that requires microbreweries to be fully licensed restaurants before being able to sell their beer at microbreweries. Another enables breweries to distribute their own beer to licensed recipients in Montgomery County.

New laws to help victims of crime also are taking effect Tuesday. One requires the Governor’s Office of Crime Control and Prevention to establish and expand programs for family members of homicide victims. The state budget includes $500,000 for a grant program to help them. Programs include providing and facilitating referrals to appropriate legal and mental health counseling services for survivors of homicide victims, including specialized support services to adult and minor survivors.

Another law will enable victims of crime to receive faster information about court cases through email. Previously, those notices came by mail through the U.S. Postal Service.

Also Tuesday, an annual pesticide registration fee will increase to $110 from $100 to generate revenue for a better pesticide reporting database. Advocates say the law is a first step toward helping scientists and researchers understand the links between pesticide exposure and potential public health and environmental impacts.