There are quite a few parallels between the sex industry and the cannabis industry. The puritan approach of the past failed simply because both industries are made up of everyday people, not criminals. As a result, the government has tried to create realistic regulations that will protect those most vulnerable. Instead, they failed and made it worse. Accessing what you need has never been harder or scarier.

Harvi Wallbanger has been a pioneer in the escort industry for over twenty years. She created an ethical escort agency. For those who are brand new, she offers week-long orientations and for those struggling to leave the industry, she helps put together retirement plans. The girls set their own schedules, rates and they receive constant mentoring and support.

A social advocate, the mission statement at Victoria Independent Providers is ‘working together for something better’ and she truly walks her talk. Knowing that she also happens to enjoy a dank doobie at the end of the day, I sat down with her to find out how she feels about whats happened with cannabis regulations, how it affects her business and history repeating itself.     

What is the current state of the law regarding prostitution?

My understanding is that it is legal for sex workers to sell sex but it is illegal for them to have support like any other normal business would; for example, a web designer, booking agent, driver or accountant. Basically, the current law sets it up so that they are independent and on their own and its illegal for the client to be doing. So, its kinda worse than it used to be, to be honest. It was always illegal to have anyone support you as a sex worker. 

Any person or service that a normal business would have access to cannot be hired by a sex worker or they are being put at risk of the charge of living off the avails of prostitution. 

Has the legalization of cannabis affected your business?

It has stressed me out to see how horribly it was handled and how it made it worse for the medical patients. It makes me think about my clients who depend on our services. We cater to a lot of clients with diverse abilities like MS and cerebral palsy. These clients are not able to satisfy themselves physically due to paralysis or having atrophied hands; it makes jerking off extremely difficult. They depend on us just like many of them depend on being able to get their medicine. Let’s talk about the Canadian taxpayers that need all these services and now they are left out in the cold. 

Does the legalization of cannabis help or hinder the creation of proper regulations for prostitution?

The only thing that legalizing cannabis has done is added stress because of how terribly it was done and how patients are getting the raw end of the deal. The government already took a stab at fixing the laws regarding prostitution. They went to the Supreme Court and said these laws are unconstitutional and the court told Stephen Harper that he had one year to fix it. He came back with Bill C-36 making it illegal for a sex worker to have a safety network or support team, plus, it was now illegal for clients. It’s still pretty unconstitutional.

Now they have done it again when it comes to cannabis. The only difference is that they are actively shutting down dispensaries but if they so wanted, they could do the same to us. Where is it going to stop? Especially when you think about the people who it’s hurting?

On what level do you feel that the Government should be involved with industries like sex and cannabis?

The answer to that question really comes down to the difference between legalization and decriminalization. You look at other countries that have decriminalized and create your model based on what works. For example, I teach all the girls how to do health checks on every client for each call but I didn’t come up with that. It is a common practice in New Zealand. 

It’s like everyone’s really afraid that legalization is going to make the situation worse. So, they make all these regulations and create all these holes; that, in fact, is what often makes it worse.

Since legalizing, have you noticed more cannabis use with the girls or clients since legalization?

I have found more people are open about it but they have always used it. It’s talked about a little more commonly because no one is breaking the law but in general, it’s the same. We don’t allow any clients to be impaired at all on any substance. If I had a guy try to come in who was greening out, I tell him to come back when he can really enjoy the experience. It’s the same with alcohol or anything else.

Do you allow the use of topical products during calls between clients and girls?

No, because unfortunately, they are not condom safe. There are a lot of girls that love using weed lubes at home. One of them told me that she uses this stuff that is so strong, once she gets off, she has to wipe it off. This gal told me that one night she was just so relaxed that she fell asleep. She woke up hours later just ripped.

If a client wants to smoke weed during a call, what do you say?

We are a non-smoking location but if they want, they can smoke it outside. As a user myself, I know how much cannabis can improve and enhance a sexual experience. As long as they are an experienced user, knew their tolerance and I felt confident that they wouldn’t come back incapacitated, it’s fine.

Have you ever worked with a girl who was anti-cannabis?

No. 

Do the girls ever mind?

I’ve never seen it; even with the girls who don’t use cannabis. Plus, the bathroom is equipped with lots of brand new toothbrushes, mouthwash, soap and we have a great shower. If it was ever a problem, there are lots of ways a client can freshen up. 

Have you ever encountered any shenanigans as a result of cannabis use? Like fire up a joint during a call?

Nope, but I have with alcohol. I have had lots of clients show up falling down drunk but I have never had anyone come in wrecked on too many edibles. I’ve never had anyone disrespect our smoking law rules. It sucks that we don’t have an indoor smoking area. If we could have a licensed indoor smoking area, I would be open to it. You could come before your session and partake in a joint. It would be really great for our clients with medical needs.

Overall, How do you feel about cannabis legalization?

I’m annoyed because I don’t want the government messing with any of these laws. I don’t want to see them approach prostitution in the same way that they have approached cannabis. In our industry, you don’t want to stick your head out too far or fight for our rights because you get nailed down. Plus, we aren’t following other countries that have these systems in place.

I train girls and mentor them before and after calls; the health checks for STD’S and financial planning aren’t something I do because the country is telling me to. Quite the opposite, the country is telling me not to get involved or ill be charged. There isn’t a politician out there that is willing to put their votes on the line to stand up for the rights of sex workers and watching the way they are handling cannabis legalization is not encouraging for us at all.

I don’t want legalization for us to mean what it did for cannabis.