Wanted: An adventure-seeking, entrepreneur who thrives on controversy. Those who lack conviction need not apply.
For a very few people, a job post like this just might be enticing. Here we look a few jobs that are so controversial that they aren't even legal in all states.
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Reselling tickets allows sellers to profit on the difference between the price they paid for the ticket and the price they are selling it for. It's not uncommon to find "scalpers" at major sporting, arts and music shows, and they can often be a way to get last-minute tickets to a sold-out event. However, scalping is highly regulated in many states, if not banned entirely. This is because scalpers can sometimes drive the cost of tickets up by buying up large blocks and causing the show to sell out, allowing them to sell more tickets at a higher rate - essentially manipulating the market.
However, while legitimate scalpers who operate within the law do exist, incidences of stolen or counterfeit ticket resales are part of what make scalping so controversial. On the other hand, supporters of scalping argue that tickets should be transferable just like any other good. (The law of supply and demand is what allows ticket scalpers to profit. Learn more about this basic concept in Economics Basics: Demand And Supply.)
Selling (Medical) Marijuana
In states where medical marijuana is legal, obtaining the drug is no longer a shady, street corner transaction (assuming the buyer has a prescription). In fact, purveyors of "pot" in all its forms have sprung up all over. According to the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, 16 states currently have active medical marijuana programs.
Because competition among dispensaries in Colorado has gotten fierce, many enterprising ideas have sprung up. Colorado-based soda company Dixie Elixirs, for example, recently introduced a "soda pot", a marijuana-laced drink. Other marijuana-based businesses that specialize in gourmet food, drinks, capsules and tinctures have also sprung up to cater to the 100,000 or so Colorado residents with legal access to medical marijuana.
This means that hundreds of enterprising Colorado business owners are making a living - and have built careers - around providing medical marijuana to the public. However, try this in another state, and you may be charged with a criminal offense. (Even if medical marijuana is legal, it may still be taxed. Find out some of the other taxes governments have implemented in A Tax For Your Behavior.)
Providing Same-Sex Weddings
According to Reuters, five states and the District of Columbia allow gay marriage and several other states offer gay couples some or equivalent spousal rights to those offered to heterosexual couples. But in some cases, allowing same-sex unions is not just an issue of rights, but also one of economics. A 2008 article in the Boston Globe referenced a study conducted for the state's Executive Office of Housing and Economic Development, which predicted that same-sex marriages had the potential to create an economic "boomlet" for hotels, caterers and other providers of wedding-related services. All this as a result of same-sex couples who travel from other states to get hitched legally - even if that union isn't recognized in their home state.
And of course, when a new niche emerges you can bet that someone will step in to fill it - in this case, that means specializing in providing marriage and tourist services to gay couples. Although providing marriage services for a gay couple in a state where such unions aren't recognized probably won't get you into trouble, it would take a change in state laws to really make this a viable business. (Find out just how expensive a wedding can be in Revealing The Hidden Costs Of Weddings.)
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Providing Prenatal Care
Being a midwife - particularly if it involves delivering a baby outside of a hospital setting - is illegal or subject to many restrictions in more than half of U.S. states. In many cases, midwives who are not licensed as medical professionals (such as a nurse), get into trouble for practicing medicine without a license. This means that "direct-entry midwives", who are educated in midwifery through a program that does not require prior education as a nurse, are unable to assist women in childbirth in many states.
According to a 2009 report by the U.S. Congress, certified nurse-midwives currently attend nearly 10% of U.S. births - more than twice as many as in 1990. Numbers for the less-regulated direct entry midwives are difficult to find, but you can bet if there's demand for this service, there will also be people willing to provide it. (For related reading, see Top 5 Ways To Budget For A Baby.)
Working Your Way Up
In a tough and competitive job market like this one, many students are happy just to get their foot in the door at a big company - even if it means working for free and getting by on peanut butter sandwiches and ramen noodles. Unfortunately, although this type of free labor is still relatively common, it poses some legal problems for employers - namely that employing someone at menial work (which many internships entail) without compensation is a violation of federal labor laws.
According to the U.S. Department of Labor, in order for an internship to be unpaid it must educate and train the intern in a way that will benefit him or her, rather than exploiting them by having them make coffee or use the photocopier without pay. In other words, if the intern is to work for free, he or she needs to benefit from the arrangement and not just provide free labor for a company or displace regular paid workers.
According to an April 2010 article in the New York Times, internships - particularly unpaid ones - are on the rise, and although this practice is technically illegal in all states, so far only a few states have begun to investigate firms who use student labor. (Check out some of the most interesting internships available in The 10 Coolest Internships.)
The Bottom Line
Although these illicit jobs have their benefits, those who work in these fields may be on shaky ground. After all, even when these activities are allowed, they often remain controversial, which could mean that the legal winds could shift at any time, leaving those who depend on them out of luck.
For the latest financial news, see Water Cooler Finance: Ghosts Of Economies Past.
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