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Distracted driving ban, other laws set to take effect Sunday
Other changes to cover medical marijuana, free credit freeze option
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A law taking effect Sunday, July 1, makes it illegal to drive while holding a phone.

ATLANTA — Several new laws will go into effect in Georgia on Sunday, July 1, which marks the beginning of a new fiscal year for the state budget.

Among them is a highly publicized measure that will make it illegal to hold or operate a cellphone by hand while driving. Dozens of other bills and resolutions passed by the state legislature during the 2018 session will also take effect.

Here is a look at some of the major legislation coming into effect Sunday:

Distracted driving

Starting Sunday, Georgia is joining more than a dozen other states in banning hands-on cellphone use while driving.

Under the “Hands-Free Georgia Act,” drivers will not be allowed to hold a phone or use any other part of their body to support the device. Violators will face fines of up to $150 and as many as three points on their license.

First-time offenders could avoid the fine by appearing in court with proof that they have purchased a hands-free device.

Medical marijuana

The state’s medical marijuana program will expand to cover patients with post-traumatic stress disorder as well as intractable pain.

Backers say the changes will give patients suffering from PTSD and intractable pain an alternative to highly addictive opioid painkillers.

The program, which allows people with certain conditions to possess low-potency marijuana oil, began in 2015 and has since been expanded to cover more conditions. Previously covered conditions include cancer, Parkinson’s disease, epilepsy and AIDS.

Breaking a lease

Victims who have received a domestic violence order in either criminal or civil court proceeding will be eligible to terminate a residential lease early without penalty.

Proponents of the new law say victims who are trying to escape a dangerous environment should not have to worry about such fees.

A tenant would need to provide a landlord with a written notice at least 30 days before breaking their lease.

Free credit freeze

A new law set to take effect will prohibit consumer credit reporting agencies from charging Georgia residents to freeze their credit report.

Placing a freeze on your credit is a security measure that can be used to combat identity theft. It essentially prevents creditors from obtaining your credit report, making it nearly impossible to open a new account.

Credit reporting agencies were previously allowed to charge a fee of up to $3 to freeze or unfreeze a report.

Local limits on fireworks

County and municipal officials in Georgia will have more authority to pass general noise ordinances effectively limiting the use of fireworks.

Under the law, however, fireworks will be permitted statewide on New Year’s Eve and Day, the weekend before Memorial Day, July 3 and 4 and Labor Day.