Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Should Vancouver License Sex Dispensaries?

Photo from 

Guest post by Andrew Sorfleet

It is well accepted. Sex and Sexual expression are an important element to health and well being. It stands to reason then that sex can and should be procured in a therapeutic setting. In fact, Vancouver has a history of the health promotion model for sexual services.

When I worked in a massage parlour with both women and men available, the licence was for a "Health Enhancement Centre." That was 1996. There were always two men on staff which ensured there was always one on door, if the other was with a client.

Only occasionally police would come for a visit and ask to walk through. They would also request an employee list. Mostly they were looking for foreign workers without permits, usually from places like Australia in those days. There was the odd uncomfortable joke and giggle, but these young officers were in a parlour lounge full of beautiful women in lingerie. I don't remember anything bad ever coming from it. Aside from a little adrenalin. There was an understanding.

It's 2016 - 20 years later. Vancouver is implementing bylaws to regulate pot dispensaries with a health promotion model. The sale of marijuana is still illegal in Canada, however the police have determined that enforcing federal marijuana laws against health enhancement storefronts that provide pot is not a priority use of police resources. Pot dispensaries flourished, in some neighbourhoods filling nearly every empty business.

The City of Vancouver implemented zoning, which included a 300-metre rule; bubble zones around schools and community centres, as well as distance from each other. There are also requirements for security and prohibition of minors. Safety is the focus of rules such as no cookies or candies to ensure that kids don't accidentally overdose on edibles.

As of May 31, 2016, 10 development permits were issued and another 11 were under review. The first business licence was issued mid May under the category of Medical Marijuana Retail Dealer and three business licences for Compassion Club category are under review.

The locations of issued permits and licences are shown on a map at:

These kinds of legislation are the jurisdiction of municipalities who have the authority to regulate land use through zoning, permits and licensing.

So why not take the same approach with businesses that provide sexual services? 

The Vancouver Police Dept has already issued policy guidelines which state that sexual services between consenting adults is not a priority for police resources. Instead, police resources are better spent ensuring that sex workers are not being coerced or exploited and are offered options to leave sex work.

VPD Sex Work Enforcement Guidelines on Youtube:

If the City's policy for marijuana is based on public safety, reducing harm and promoting health, what better way to protect the safety of the public and sex workers than to create bylaws which zone and license for sexual health services? Clients and police both could be satisfied that there is no exploitation or coercion of service providers.

Medical marijuana dispensaries in B.C. have their own association. Is it time sex businesses that employ sexual service providers formed their own association to lobby?

Permits & Licences and Bylaw Enforcement
(May 31, 2016)
What do you think? Please leave comments below. :)

About the Author

Andrew Sorfleet has worked in the sex industry for over a decade and has been a sex workers' rights activist since 1990. He is currently president of the board of Triple-X Workers' Solidarity Association of B.C.

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