Institute for Justice

Institute for Justice Sues New Jersey Over Ban on Home Bakers Selling Their Cakes

"These women can give their baked goods away for free."

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Jamiesrabbits / Flickr

In New Jersey, selling a single cookie for profit can cost you up to $1,000 in fines—it's the only state that bans the sale of homemade baked goods for profits. But the Institute for Justice has filed a lawsuit arguing that the ban unconstitutionally restricts the rights of home bakers, and hopes to get the policy changed.

Earlier this week, the state moved to dismiss the lawsuit.

Heather Russinko, a single mother from New Jersey, was living paycheck to paycheck when she realized her love of baking could earn her a bit of extra money. She already had success selling her baked goods at local fundraisers, but when she tried to sell them for profit, the government shut her down.

"It was crushing because I always wanted to have my own business," Russinko told CBS News. "I believe in creating your own destiny and being self-sufficient."

It was the same for Liz Cibotariu, a mother of two who works as an Army helicopter technician in the National Guard and was a radio operator in the Iraq War. She also sought to supplement her family's income with home baking, but in New Jersey, that isn't possible.

Before selling a single item, New Jersey bakers must obtain a "retail food establishment" license, a costly process that requires the use of a commercial kitchen, inspections, paying fees, and compliance with hundreds of other regulations. With such high start-up costs, many home bakers are unable to maintain a business without breaking the law.

While most states have "cottage food laws" which carve out space for small-scale home bakers in the market, New Jersey is the only state to have no such safety net. Earlier this year, in Wisconsin—the only other state to have similar regulations—the state Supreme Court struck down the ban as unconstitutional after the case was brought to court by I.J. The organization hopes to score a similar victory in New Jersey.

"Selling homemade cookies should not be a crime," said I.J. Senior Attorney Michael Bindas in a statement. "The New Jersey Constitution protects the right of entrepreneurs, including home bakers, to earn an honest living. When the cookie ban crumbles, they'll be free to do so."

On the legislative front, Americans for Prosperity (AFP) has been organizing home baker's efforts to overturn this legislative policy and pass the "Home Bakers Bill" for nine years. The bill—which would allow home bakers to skip most of the regulations—requires bakers to go through some degree of health certification and caps their earnings at $50,000. Despite these compromises, and although the bill has unanimously passed the New Jersey Assembly three times, the Home Bakers Bill remains defeated, largely because State Sen. Joe Vitale, a Democrat, refuses to let the bill go to floor.

"I'm just asking that there be some level of inspection to ensure that public health standards are met," Vitale told CBS News. "This is a business model, and it doesn't really talk about liability insurance. What if you make something and someone gets sick or you leave a toothpick in it?"

Erica Jedynak, AFP's New Jersey state sirector suggests special interest groups are bolstering this legislation, despite no viable public health concern.

"These women can give their baked goods away for free," Jedynak told US New & World Report, citing a lobbying event where 500 cookies and cake pops were distributed at the statehouse. "No one was poisoned. There were no health issues. Lawmakers ate it all up in Trenton."

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  1. First of all, freely sold baked goods can spoil a child’s appetite before dinner and can be a gateway towards lifelong bad eating habits. Also, I bought a banana pound cake recently and it had walnuts in it. This was not printed on the label. THAT should also be illegal.

    Still Shillin’ for Jill 2020 approves this message.

    1. The metric system has a long arm…

  2. As the anti-immigrationists say, “THEY’RE BREAKING THE LAW! THEY’RE CRIMINALS! NO AMNESTY!”

    Or as the kinder gentler anti-immigrationists say, “I feel for the plight of the muffin man but… HE’S BREAKING THE LAW!”

    1. Here’s another one. “Just because the law is retarded doesn’t mean you’re not taking a risk when you break it.”

      1. Yeah man, and THAT is what justifies about 1/2 of the so-called freedom-lovers on these pages, PILING ON to offer endless justification for draconian policies, for a single special case of “the law is retarded”, but just about ONLY when it comes to illegal humans crossing arbitrarily-drawn lines in the sand! Yeah man, gotcha!

        (Witches took risks during the Dark Ages of Europe, too).

        1. I don’t know what this is supposed to mean.

      2. “Play stupid games, win stupid prizes” is certainly applicable to any situation wherein a person has, for whatever reason, opted not to stay the hell out of New Jersey.

    2. At least the LP has Larry Sharpe to make the case for a more generous immigration policy.

      UNICEF says the age of consent is 12 in Mexico.

      Arvin Vohra would probably write:
      Mexico is a modern democracy where the laws reflect the will of the people and the age of consent is 12. We should grant more visas to Mexicans so that they can help us shape the future of America.

      Larry Sharpe would probably write:
      Trump is so mean for deporting the Dreamers. I love those dreamers, every single one of them.

      1. Mexico is a modern democracy

        Yeah, sort of.

        where the laws reflect the will of the people

        Not sure if that follows. Especially on issues like age of consent which are the basis for pretty much no one’s voting choices.

    3. No one is suggesting that these home bakers should go out and break the law or that they should be immune from punishment if they do. Cool strawman though. You almost had a thought!

    4. And as the anti-Christianists say, “THEY’RE BREAKING THE LAW! THEY’RE CRIMINALS! NO AMNESTY!”

      Or as the kinder gentler anti-Christianists say, “I feel for the plight of the muffin man but… HE’S BREAKING THE LAW!”

      See, this one actually works because it’s rhetorically and logically identical to what you stupid pieces of shit actually say regarding anti-discrimination laws.

  3. Oh, come on. Everyone knows that the act of engaging in commerce turns people into monsters who will do anything for a profit. Profit causes people to sell poison. The only thing that can stop this is government. I mean, before the FDA everything out there was poison. Because that’s what businesses do. They kill their customers for a profit.

    1. This guy has an MBA.

    2. Won’t somebody please think of the health inspectors!!1!1!

  4. What if you make something and someone gets sick or you leave a toothpick in it?

    Seems like that’s what civil suits are for.

    1. Also, my mother baked all the time. In cakes (maybe it was just birthday cakes) she would leave a toothpick inside and the one who found it in his slice won something. Maybe another piece or a trip to the emergency room. I forget.

      1. It was to teach you to enjoy it when others win.

  5. These gals need to take a cue from the weed dealers in D.C. Sell something like a get well card for $20, then give them free baked goods.

    1. This is New Jerksey. You need a permit to sell a get well card. What if the card made someone sicker?

      1. This is New Jerksey. You need a permit to sell a get well card. What if the card made someone sicker?

        Seems like that’s what civil suits are for.

        1. This guy has an MBA.

      2. Infected paper cut!

  6. Again with the bakers? Haven’t they had their 30 minutes of fame yet?

    /sarc

  7. When the cookie ban crumbles…

    [barfs]
    [wipes mouth, nods in agreement with IJ attorney]

    [barfs]

  8. “These women can give their baked goods away for free.”

    If I recall correctly, sex-workers tried that line of argument in California unsuccessfully.

  9. What are those things in the picture?

    1. Fattening.

    2. I suspect they’re cupcake lollipops, which are both less satisfying than regular cupcakes and ridiculous-looking to eat.

      Source: my wife’s Pinterest board

      1. But they’re sooooooo trendy.

      2. I like them because that’s usually about as much cake as I want to eat at once.

        1. True this. I don’t presume your gender, of course, but it seems that girls love their sweets.

          There’s a biological reason for that. There has to be. I ask somebody for a “tiny” piece of dessert and end up eating about 1/4 of it and giving it away.

          1. I’m not a girl and I would pretty much always prefer something salty or savory to something sweet.

            1. Though I don’t really notice much of a correlation to sex. Plenty of guys with a sweet tooth.

        2. A slice of cake should be between 1/4 to 1/2 of said cake.

          1. Well, you can have most of mine.

  10. “This is a business model, and it doesn’t really talk about liability insurance. What if you make something and someone gets sick or you leave a toothpick in it?” Have to cover every single imaginable contingency; that’s what licensing boards are for, so make those home bakers take at least a thousand hours of food safety courses, for a start.

  11. “I’m just asking that there be some level of inspection to ensure that public health standards are met,” Vitale told CBS News. “This is a business model, and it doesn’t really talk about liability insurance. What if you make something and someone gets sick or you leave a toothpick in it?”

    What if I go to an official state sanctioned bakery and get sick or find a toothpick?

    1. You know who else had state-run ovens?

      1. The Clinton foundation in Haiti?

      2. The Clinton foundation in Haiti?

  12. Obviously cooking your own food without a government license should be against the law. (And the license won’t be cheap, natch. Just think of all the lovely revenue that will add to the state’s coffers!)

  13. “These women can give their baked goods away for free.”

    The argument didn’t work for prostitution.

  14. You know what else is illegal to sell but perfectly lawful to give away?

    Also? Yadda-yadda…”master bakers.”

  15. Saves them the trouble of having to shut them down and fine them hundreds of thousands of dollars when they accidentally look cross ways at a faggot.

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