The Santa Barbara Courthouse

There are some very strange prohibitions in this nation, many of them having been documented by enterprising seekers of weirdness. For example, there is a law in Tennessee – although this is, of course, hearsay, having not examined the code myself – stating that bologna may not be sold on Sunday.

Santa Barbara has no laws against lunchmeat, fortunately. However, there are subsections of our county and municipal laws which, although not quite so strange as those found in other parts of the country, have an oddness all their own. One might call it a uniquely Santa Barbaran type of weirdness.

As an example: We are all justifiably proud of our county’s avocado production – or at least, we ought to be. And is it not ethical to take very good care of those things we hold dear? We can be as proud, it turns out, of the care we take of our avocados as we are of the avocados themselves. Article III, Section 14 of our very own County Code says that “any peace officer, upon reasonable belief that a person is not in legal possession of a commercial quantity of avocados, may seize such avocados without warrant.” Upon seizure of the avocados, “the sheriff shall receive and provide for the care and safekeeping of such avocados.” It sounds very much like a section of drug law, does it not, only with the word “avocado” substituted in whenever appropriate? Perhaps our lawmakers cut some corners.

Whether or not shortcuts were taken in the writing of our avocado law, however, our Municipal Code contains some sections which, it seems, were researched perhaps a little too carefully.

We’ve all seen the signs for Madam Rosinka’s fortunetelling businesses, but other than that, we’re no Salem. Or so it seemed before reading Chapter 5.40 of the Santa Barbara Municipal Code.

Not that such practices are discouraged – rather, they’re perfectly permissible, so long as the magician pays the appropriate business tax. Among the professions for which a permit is required are astrology, palmistry, phrenology, life reading, fortunetelling, cartomancy, crystal gazing, and clairvoyance. You think that’s a comprehensive list? No. There’s also clairaudience, magic, necromancy, psychism, psychometry, mind reading, mental telepathy, automatic writing, spirit writing, trance mediumship, and sandgazing. If you’re reading this and asking, how could they have forgotten potion making in this list, rest assured – they didn’t. They also included materialization, ballot reading, conducting trumpet seances, prophecy, augury, divination, and the making of “magic articles.”

Basically, if you play Dungeons & Dragons, watch out. They’re coming for you.

In uncertain times, it’s easy to feel insecure about our lawmakers and our nation. But thankfully, we can be assured of one thing: In Santa Barbara County, no necromancer will steal avocados.

At least, not without a permit.


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