Hit & Run

L.A. May Legalize Its Strongest Drug: Street-Vended, Bacon-Wrapped Hot Dogs

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Pictured: The last remaining reason to live in Los Angeles
Reason TV

I live next to an elementary school in Los Angeles, and when school lets out, greeting parents and kids walking home in my neighborhood is a small collection of street vendors selling ice cream, snacks, and Mexican corn on the cob. Everything they're doing is illegal in Los Angeles, offering children a nice introduction to how black markets work, not that their customers probably realize the vendors are violating city law.

Street vending is banned in Los Angeles. City residents may be forgiven for not realizing this, because they've encountered it any place where lots of people gather. And now Los Angeles might actually recognize that they really can't realistically stop this form of commerce and legalize it. And, of course, heavily regulate it, like they do in other cities like New York and San Francisco. LA Weekly, taking special note of the possibility bacon-wrapped hot dogs will be decriminalized, describes the new legal process, under consideration this week by the city's Economic Development Committee:

As it stands the "framework" for street-side entrepreneurs would have them take a mandatory course on the rules of the game, apply and pay for various permits, and obtain county approvals for food handling, if that's what they do.

I suspect the street vendors outside my local elementary school will remain rebels under the law, unable to afford the permits or course. The "framework" LA Weekly references is a nine-page document that ends with a flowchart for potential legal street vendors that has a whole host of steps and involves three different permitting agencies, any of which could deny a permit.

This is deliberately too small to read to avoid infuriating you.
City of Los Angeles

The vote on Tuesday will call for the city to prepare a report within 90 days about how these vendors may be legally permitted and regulated. It also calls for recommendations for "ways to ensure street vendors provide safe and healthy food options." There's already a way to ensure that: It's called consumer demand. Based on that language, bacon-wrapped hot dogs may continue to enjoy its outlaw status, even if serving them from street carts becomes technically legal. (There is a square on the spreadsheet labeled "healthy food certification" that should make people shudder)

LA Weekly and Reason have been reporting on the illicit status of these hot dogs all the way back to 2008, detailing how the city put Elizabeth Palacios in jail to make an example out of her for selling them. Read more here. Just like the failed drug wars, the city's meddling under the guise of "public safety" have not affected demand one bit.

Below, Reason TV and Drew Carey explored the city's harassment of street vendors in 2008: