An 11-year-old girl was barred from selling mistletoe at a holiday market in Portland, Ore., for not having a permit. But she was told it was ok to beg.
No, this is not a Portlandia sketch.
Madison Root wanted to help her dad pay for her braces, which cost almost $5,000. So she cut, chopped and bagged mistletoe from her uncle’s farm before heading to the Portland Saturday Market.
But when she got there, Madison was told she couldn’t sell at the market without a permit. The Portland Saturday Market rents out space from the Portland Parks Bureau. Under the city’s code, “no person shall solicit for or conduct any business in a park,” unless they have a permit, lease or concession agreement. Applying for a vending booth at the market requires paying fees and passing “multiple jury reviews,” before someone can properly sell there.
A private security guard told Madison she could sell outside the market on the sidewalk, but that would mean receiving a lot less foot traffic. According to her father, “The guard told her she can beg if she wanted but she can’t sell the mistletoe.”
In fact, asking for donations is “a form of free speech, protected under the First Amendment,” a representative for the Parks Bureau noted.
“I don’t want to beg! I would rather work for something than beg,” Madison said in an interview.
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She was also upset by the double standard imposed by the city:
“I wouldn’t think I’d have any problems because people are asking for money, people are selling stuff, this is a public place …There were people just next to me that have big signs saying ‘Got Pot?’ They’re raising money for pot.”
While some vendors support exempting kids’ businesses from these restrictions, others wanted “to avoid too many types of street vendors who might bring the place down.” (Ironically, Portland is one of the better cities for food carts, while other cities have been cracking down on street vendors.)
Sadly, this isn’t the only silly regulation in Oregon. The Institute for Justice recently filed a lawsuit challenging the state’s ban on advertising raw milk, even though raw milk is legal in Oregon.
A local news anchor put it best, “On one hand you have common sense. On the other hand, you have laws, ordinances and city rules and sometimes, they just clash.”
— Nick Sibilla
Nick Sibilla is a writer at the Institute for Justice