J. Justin Wilson
J. Justin Wilson · April 6, 2018

The Maryland Senate voted unanimously today to pass HB 1106, which would expand where home bakers can legally sell their homemade treats. Currently, the state has some of the strictest limits in the nation, and only allows home bakers to sell at farmer’s markets or at special events. But sell those very same cakes or cookies anywhere else, including from a baker’s very own home—where they are already being made—and  bakers risk heavy fines and even jail time. The bill now heads to Gov. Larry Hogan for his signature.

HB 1106 would change this by allowing home bakers to sell directly from home or through mail deliveries. The bill would also allow home bakers to take custom orders, which can be both lucrative and in demand for consumers. HB 1106 would only apply to food sold under Maryland’s “cottage food” law, which lets Marylanders sell “nonhazardous” homemade food, like cakes, cookies, or jams.

“Passing this bill would expand economic opportunity and would leaven some common-sense into Maryland’s half-baked cottage-food law,” said Pablo Carvajal, Baltimore Activism Manager at the Institute for Justice. “Cottage food is inherently safe and the government shouldn’t arbitrarily restrict where inherently safe food is sold.”

According to a report by the Institute for Justice, 49 states (including Maryland) currently allow the sale of cottage food. Yet Maryland is just one of a dozen states that bans home bakers from selling out of their homes, and one of three that prohibits sales at all venues except farmer’s markets.

“Maryland makes running a cottage food business out of the home nearly impossible for people like me who have big dreams but can’t fork over thousands of dollars on a commercial kitchen space,” said Zak Whipp, a Baltimore-based baker who testified in favor of the bill earlier this year. “Reforming the law will positively impact countless of cottage foods entrepreneurs across the state.”

If the governor signs HB 1106, Maryland will join a growing, nationwide movement. On Monday, Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin approved a bill that legalizes home-baking businesses for all residents in the Bluegrass State. The Institute for Justice has secured victories for home bakers in Minnesota and Wisconsin, and is currently challenging New Jersey’s complete ban on selling homemade goods.