Across the globe, new laws taking effect as 2014 dawns

New laws are taking effect across the globe on New Year’s Day 2014, with some affecting entire countries and others just the communities that enacted them.

Latvia is becoming the 18th nation in Europe’s euro zone on Wednesday, as Riga continues to distance itself from its past as a Cold War-era Soviet satellite. Latvians will be able to immediately use the euro, as well as the country’s lat currency until mid-January.

Other countries are also adopting nationwide changes. In Switzerland, drivers will have to keep their headlights on, even in the middle of the day. Canada has banned incandescent lightbulbs, while Botswana is prohibiting elephant hunting.

China is making it easier for tourists to visit Taiwan. Britain says it will now be legal to be an atheist. French police have a new code of conduct requiring them to be more respectful. Hungary says it will provide a free grave, and coffin or urn, for its poorest people who die.

In the United States, Colorado will become the first state to allow the sale of marijuana for recreational purposes, while another western state, Oregon, has banned smoking in a car with children. The Boy Scouts youth group says it will start accepting gay members instead of booting them out of the organization as it has in the past.

Millions of Americans will have new health insurance coverage as President Barack Obama’s national health care reforms take full effect after months of start-up difficulties that are not totally resolved.


(Ceremony in Riga marking Latvia’s entrance into the euro zone. Photo: Eiro_lv/