October 18, 2019
By Kileen Lindgren

Imagine you ran a small business, and the government suddenly changed the rules to put you out of business virtually overnight. Whom would you call? Did you know there’s a network to connect freedom-loving attorneys with individuals and small-business owners who need help fighting against government overreach? There is, and it works.

Yesterday, an Oregon State Court of Appeals commissioner issued a decision granting immediate and temporary stay of the Oregon Health Authority’s recently adopted rule, based on Oregon Governor Brown’s executive order, that temporarily banned the sale of most vaping products in the state. This decision comes in response to the efforts of attorney Ryan Adams, a member of the Goldwater Institute’s pro bono program, American Freedom Network, who filed a petition for judicial review of the rule on October 16, 2019. Adams represents entrepreneur Paul Bates and his business, Division Vapor.

Like 4,000 other retailers in the state, Mr. Bates faced the imminent loss of his livelihood under the new rule. Thursday’s decision means he will be able to keep the lights on, at least until the court renders a final decision in the case.  

Similar preliminary victories have occurred this month in New York and Michigan. These decisions demonstrate the severity of this issue—government cannot arbitrarily prevent businesses from selling legal products or abuse its power of executive order by playing reactionary politics. Advocates for vape bans claim that they will protect children; however, minors are not even allowed into Mr. Bates’ business, and they are not allowed to purchase vaping products. 

Banning the business of law-abiding retailers puts a bandage where there is no injury. Thanks to the American Freedom Network, hardworking business owners in Oregon will be able to continue to work and meet the needs of their customers, while litigation moves forward.

Mr. Bates is also a client of the Goldwater Institute, which represents him and Division Vapor in a First Amendment challenge to Oregon’s restriction on honest advertising of vaping products. In the free speech case, Mr. Bates seeks a declaration that it is unconstitutional to require vape shops to censor labels that accurately describe vaping liquids and prevent vape shops from displaying those products in a way that is attractive to adult customers. (Read more about the lawsuit here.)

Every business has a right to provide customers with accurate information about the products the business is legally allowed to sell. Freedom of speech doesn’t just help businesses succeed—it also ensures that customers get the information that they need to make wise choices. Yet Oregon has been censoring truthful information about legal vaping products by prohibiting retailers from putting pictures of items that it deems “likely to appeal to minors”—like apples, strawberries, and oranges—or even those very words—on their product labels. This censorship harms Oregon consumers and violates the constitutional rights of responsible entrepreneurs.

American Freedom Network attorneys have assisted in both of Mr. Bates’ cases, and with a third free speech lawsuit challenging Oregon’s mandatory bar association for attorneys. And the Goldwater Institute is leading the charge to defend attorneys’ rights in other states around the country, including Louisiana, North Dakota, and Oklahoma. We are committed to advancing freedom and defending individual rights in Oregon, and we are privileged to work with liberty-minded litigators in this state.

If you are an attorney and would like to learn more about litigating for liberty through the American Freedom Network, please visit this page or contact Kileen Lindgren at klindgren@goldwaterinstitute.org.

Kileen Lindgren is the Legal Programs Manager at the Goldwater Institute.

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