This week, the state of California decided to crack down on a great evil. Not human feces on the street, which seems to be multiplying at an exponential rate in cities like San Francisco; not used needles, which have begun cropping up in residential neighborhoods in Los Angeles, including my own; not even people purposefully infecting others with HIV, which will no longer be a felony.
No, the legislators of California are cracking down on plastic straws.
In the last several weeks, San Francisco and Santa Barbara announced tough new crackdowns on the nefarious little items. San Francisco’s Board of Supervisors announced a possible new ordinance preventing restaurants and retailers from handing out straws, stirrers and toothpicks beginning next year. Those outlets would also be prohibited from selling single-use food service products—so say goodbye to your iced coffee cup. “This is about changing people’s behavior,” supervisor Ahsha Safai explained, in traditional Nanny State language.
But if San Francisco is the home of the Nanny State, Santa Barbara is home to Big Brother. If you repeatedly hand out straws to customers in that beautiful city, you could face fines ranging from $100 to $1,000 plus six months in prison—per offense. So while California is busily downgrading felonies to misdemeanors and releasing criminals back onto the streets thanks to prison overcrowding, we could have a whole new Starbucks-to-prison pipeline.