Magazine article Reason

Keeping Psychics Honest: Only in San Fran, Part XXIX

Magazine article Reason

Keeping Psychics Honest: Only in San Fran, Part XXIX

Article excerpt

TIME WAS, A self-respecting augur or necromancer could ply her trade in San Francisco without the long arm of the nanny state reaching into her pocket for money and the right paperwork. NO more.

As of August 1, fortunetellers of all stripes (including but not limited to crystal gazers, cartomancers, and interpreters of coffee grounds) are required to obtain a $357 license from the city, post their prices prominently, and issue receipts. The licensing requirements include proof of government-issued identification, five years' worth of employment and residential info, and a criminal background check, with fingerprinting. If the soothsayer has been convicted of two relevant misdemeanors or a single felony, the application will be denied.

So is a famously tolerant city now trying to squeeze out its eccentrics? Not at all, insists Laurel Pallock, a consumer fraud investigator for the district attorney's office and the driving force behind the legislation. "I mean, San Francisco prides itself on this sort of thing," Pallock says with a hearty laugh. "So we're not trying to say you can't do it."

Pallock became a psychic-regulation enthusiast after seeing fragile people open their hearts to fortunetellers, only to have the information used against them and be told that their families would suffer terrible curses unless the oracle received much more cash.

"I kind of liken it to elder abuse," she says. "They are victimizing some people who are not able at that point to help themselves out of a jam. …

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