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14 Bizarre State Laws You May Not Know

You could be breaking the law in your own state right now and not even know it. Throughout U.S. history, all 50 states have passed a variety of highly specific, often bizarre laws — some that may have made sense at the time but definitely don’t any longer. In every state, you’ll find a few of these quirky laws that are rarely enforced but, for whatever reason, remain on the books. Here are 14 obscure and sometimes mind-boggling state laws you’ve probably never heard of.

It’s Illegal to Sell Fake Butter as Real Butter in Iowa

It’s a misdemeanor in Iowa to either directly or indirectly state that oleo, oleomargarine, or margarine is a dairy product, a relic of an era when such laws were common. The law goes on to explain all the manifold ways in which it’s illegal to lie about fake butter: “by statement, printing, writing, circular, poster, design, device, grade designation, advertisement, symbol, sound, or any combination thereof.” It also specifically prevents the purchase of margarine under the pretense of it being butter.

According to Its Legal Code, Wisconsin’s Cheese Must Please

Speaking of dairy products, when it comes to cheese, Wisconsin isn’t playing around. The state whose citizens wear cheese-shaped hats to their football games has unsurprisingly strong standards when it comes to their proudest export, and not just any old cheese is allowed to represent Wisconsin. Per chapter 81 of the administrative code of the Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection, state-certified Muensters, Monterey Jacks, colbys, and cheddars must be "highly pleasing.” Meanwhile, Swisses and Emmentalers are required to “have a pleasing and desirable characteristic Swiss cheese flavor.”

In California, You Can’t Eat Frog That Was in a Jumping Contest

California has somewhat complicated laws surrounding jumping contests involving frogs. In the Golden State, it’s legal to challenge frogs to compete against one another in a jumping contest, but if you try to eat one of them, you could be in hot water. According to the state’s Fish & Game Code, “if such a frog dies or is killed, it must be destroyed as soon as possible, and may not be eaten or otherwise used for any purpose.” As well, the red-legged frog — the species that starred in Mark Twain’s 1865 California-based short story, “The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County” — is barred from competing, due to its status as an endangered species. The popular choice for the real-life Calaveras County Jumping Frog Jubilee is the non-native eastern bullfrog, and it’s illegal to return them to the water after the contest, because they’re a big part of the reason that their red-legged cousins got so endangered in the first place.

No X-Raying Your Feet in a Washingtonian Shoe Store

Washington state has zero tolerance for radioactive feet in its shoe stores. Per RCW 70.98.170, “the operation or maintenance of any X-ray, fluoroscopic, or other equipment or apparatus employing roentgen rays, in the fitting of shoes or other footwear or in the viewing of bones in the feet is prohibited.” Seems like a pretty rare occurrence — but it didn’t used to be. Between the 1920s and the 1960s, when radiograph technology was new, it wasn’t uncommon for American shoe stores to provide X-ray machines to display customers’ podalic bones, thanks to an incorrect theory that it would help optimize the fit of their shoes. This unwittingly exposed customers to unhealthy doses of radiation in the process, and in 1971, the FDA finally put the kibosh on shoe store fluoroscopy. It’s now illegal in all U.S. states, but Washington was an early adopter, and put this law on the books in 1961.

You Can Only Buy Room-Temp Soda or Water in Indiana’s Liquor Stores

It’s not clear what the Hoosiers have against a nice cold nonalcoholic beverage, but you can't buy one at its liquor stores. The list of commodities that an Indiana liquor store is allowed to sell includes “uncooled and uniced charged water, carbonated soda, ginger ale, mineral water, grenadine, and flavoring extracts,” but cooler or iced versions are not on the docket.

Don't Abscond into the Dark New Hampshire Night with Seaweed

The Granite State takes its gardens seriously — even the underwater ones. In 1973, the act of carrying away or collecting seaweed specifically at night in New Hampshire became a violation of the law, with an unspecified punishment. It’s theorized that the law stems from the practice by farmers of hauling seaweed ashore to help fertilize their corn fields, and the ban on nighttime seaweed harvesting hypothetically gives other folks a chance to collect their own. Wanna swipe some seaweed from Portsmouth’s shores during the day? Totally fine. Just don't be sneaky about it.

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