New Jersey’s Republican former lieutenant governor Kim Guadagno unwittingly made a good case for the legalization of sex work while attempting to trash the state’s proposed recreational cannabis bill.
“If they need revenue that badly let’s legalize a victimless crime and tax it up the wazoo,” she told 101.5 FM host Bill Spadea on Tuesday. “What do I mean by that? Let’s legalize prostitution. It’s better for women because they’ll get good medical care, it will cut out the middleman — if you know what I mean — and it’s between two consenting adults.”
“I know it sounds outrageous,” she continued. “But that’s what it sounds like to legalize pot to me.” Guadagno went on to question the state’s revenue estimates should it legalize recreational marijuana, and capped it all with a dig at the ten US states and federal district who have already made the switch. “Look at the states where it’s already been legalized and ask yourself the question; is this New Jersey?” she pleaded.
Guadagno’s rhetoric could have been a win for sex worker advocates and allies, who have long held that legalization and regulation of the sex trade would make its workers safer. Unfortunately, they were actually the product of a conservative cannabis scare tactic that failed hit its mark. And possibly, of Guadagno’s lasting rancor against pro-pot current governor Phil Murphy, who defeated her in last year’s gubernatorial election. Guadagno immediately trotted back her comments to New Jersey blog More Monmouth Musings. “From both a revenue and social justice point of view, it makes more sense to legalize prostitution than marijuana, but I’m not advocating either.”
New Jersey’s cannabis legalization movement has encountered a large amount of reactionary blowback. State bill S2703, aka the “Marijuana Legalization Act”, was the subject of intense public debate leading up to this week’s State Senate and Assembly votes to advance the proposal out of committee. Governor Murphy has shown only tepid support for the legislation, despite having bested Guadagno thanks in part to his platform of support for cannabis decriminalization. Even staunch marijuana legalization advocates say that S2703 would not do enough to rectify the harmful racial disparity perpetuated by the current War on Drugs.
The confusing comments made by Guadagno have led the state’s conservative media to spend the day debating the relative merits of sex work and marijuana. But actual proponents of decriminalizing the sex industry argue that consensual sex work is a victimless crime, that it would be vastly safer for sex workers if their jobs were located in a regulated industry, and yes, the state could indeed “tax it up the wazoo.”
Though some prominent feminists continue to diminish the agency of sex workers, there has been progress made in shifting widely-held misconceptions about their job. This fall one of Canada’s best-known women’s organizations, the Fédération des femmes du Québec, announced that it now recognizes that some women do perform sex work of their own accord.
Surely Guadagno’s jumbled musings will soon be forgotten. But her comments did suggest an interesting parallel between the movements to remove prohibition laws from two of society’s most demonized, yet victimless, activities of choice.