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Washington state lawmaker wants to legalize lemonade stands

Good news could be on the horizon for Washington lemonade stands. (Mike Licht, Flickr Creative Commons)

The lemonade stand may be one of America’s most innocent childhood summer pastimes, but they’re technically illegal in 36 states, including Washington. If a curmudgeonly neighbor, who most definitely doesn’t subscribe to the old “When life give you lemons” philosophy, wanted to call the police, kids can face a fine.

So, State Sen. Steve O’Ban created SB 6320, which would allow children 14 and under to sell lemonade on the sidewalk, consequence free.

“In most places there are local health laws that would require the young person to get a food handler’s license,” said Senator O’Ban. “There are also tax laws that would require that child to file a tax return and possible pay sales tax.”

Yes, Sen. O’Ban says, adults actually do tattle on children.

“Once we publicized this, I’ve heard from several different parents who said law enforcement was called or someone complained and they were told this might be a violation of the law. We had one in Pierce County, I think it’s been about a year now, where someone was concerned that [the kids] weren’t following food handler’s permits and they called the police,” he described. “The police responded and they actually bought a bunch of lemonade. So, will it be enforced? Perhaps not. But to me its troubling that we have on the books laws that these people would be technically violating. We want to remove any barriers.”

O’Ban wants to encourage young people to be entrepreneurs, and lemonade stands are often a child’s first business. A quote from the senator’s website says:

“The loss of any revenue from lemonade stands across Washington will not have any effect at all on state finances. It’s ridiculous that government wants a piece of that action,” said O’Ban. “And, I can find no case where someone has gotten sick from a glass of lemonade served from a homemade stand. Health department regulations on this are a solution without a problem.”

Story after story has popped up around the country, with reports of kids getting fined for selling lemonade out of Dixie cups. So Country Time Lemonade started a legal fund called Legal-Ade that offers to reimburse families up to $300. They ask for a scan of the violation and a note that details what your child’s lemonade stand means to them.

Does O’Ban think this bill will be easy to pass?

“It sure ought to be!” he exclaimed. “This ought to have bipartisan support. Who doesn’t like lemonade and young entrepreneurs?”

Representative Luanne Van Werven is pushing a very similar bill through the House, something Sen. O’Ban says only improves the chances for his measure.

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