California Law Could Have Waiters Facing Jail Time for Handing Out Straws


It has been said that leftist politicians want to regulate and/or criminalize everything. It seems liberal politicians in California have set out to prove that suspicion correct.

According to TheBlaze, a bill recently introduced in the California Assembly would essentially make it a crime for waiters to hand out straws to customers who didn’t specifically request one.

That bill is AB 1884, and if passed would prohibit sit-down restaurants from providing single-use plastic straws to their customers unless the customer requests one — a prohibition backed up by misdemeanor criminal penalties of a fine ranging from $25 to $1,000 and a jail sentence of no more than six months.

“We need to create awareness around the issue of one-time use plastic straws and its detrimental effects on our landfills, waterways, and oceans,” stated Majority Leader Ian Calderon, who introduced the bill.

“AB 1884 is not ban on plastic straws,” he added. “It is a small step towards curbing our reliance on these convenience products, which will hopefully contribute to a change in consumer attitudes and usage.”

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The release went on to cite a number of unsourced statistics regarding the usage of plastic straws and the effect those discarded straws eventually have on the environment.

Of course, as with most pieces of proposed legislation, people on both sides of the issue (who even knew that plastic straw use was an issue?) have been left unhappy, according to the San Francisco Chronicle.

Environmentalist groups are mad because the bill doesn’t go far enough in their view, as they wanted a blanket ban on the use of plastic straws and don’t like the fact that this bill excludes fast food restaurants, small cafes and delis, where most single-use plastic straws are handed out and disposed of “improperly.”

“Really, what’s at stake here is a few moments of convenience creating a years-long environmental threat,” stated David Lewis, executive director of an environmentalist group known as Save the Bay.

Is this the dumbest proposed law you've ever heard?

On the other side are those who stand against heavy-handed mandates and intrusive policies on the private sector that are difficult, if not foolish, to try and enforce.

“Not everything needs to be legislated,” stated Gwyneth Borden, executive director of the Golden Gate Restaurant Association. “The industry will be more creative and innovative if given the opportunity to come up with a solution.”

“Will there be secret straw investigators?” Borden asked half-jokingly. “They don’t need to create a law around it. You aren’t really even tackling where the mass usage happens. The segment of the restaurant industry that is struggling the most is full-service restaurants, and this law singles them out.”

As for the various statistics stated in Calderon’s news release, as well as the San Fran Chronicle — specifically that some 500 million straws are used and discarded every day (more straws than people) — libertarian-leaning outlet Reason took some issue with that number.

It turned out that the number was nothing more than an estimate derived by a young environmentalist activist who conducted a phone survey of straw manufacturers when he was 9-years-old, yet it has been promoted by the likes of a recycling company called Eco-Cycle, the National Restaurant Association and the National Park Service, as well as leftist politicians.

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But aside from unsupported claims being used to support impactful legislation, Reason also took issue with the heavy-handed approach of it all — potential jail time for handing out an unrequested plastic straw — and noted that Calderon’s senior assistant, Voleck Taing, said the bill could be amended to remove the stiff penalties.

This is quite possibly the height of ridiculously dumb legislation which serves to prove the point that some liberal politicians will attempt to regulate and criminalize virtually everything they possibly can.

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Ben Marquis is a writer who identifies as a constitutional conservative/libertarian. He has written about current events and politics for The Western Journal since 2014. His focus is on protecting the First and Second Amendments.
Ben Marquis has written on current events and politics for The Western Journal since 2014. He reads voraciously and writes about the news of the day from a conservative-libertarian perspective. He is an advocate for a more constitutional government and a staunch defender of the Second Amendment, which protects the rest of our natural rights. He lives in Little Rock, Arkansas, with the love of his life as well as four dogs and four cats.
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