In this live-and-let-live town, where medical marijuana clubs do business next to grocery stores, prostitutes could soon walk the streets without fear of arrest.
San Francisco would become the first major U.S. city to decriminalize prostitution if voters approve Proposition K, a measure that forbids local authorities from investigating, arresting or prosecuting anyone for selling sex.
The ballot question technically wouldn't legalize prostitution since state law still prohibits it, but the measure would eliminate the power of local law enforcement officials to go after prostitutes.
Proponents say the measure will free up $11million the police spend each year arresting prostitutes.
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“It will allow workers to organize for our rights and for our safety,” said Patricia West, 22, who said she has been selling sex for about a year by placing ads on the Internet. She moved to San Francisco in May from Texas to work on Proposition K.
Some form of prostitution is already legal in two states. Brothels are allowed in rural counties in Nevada. And Rhode Island permits the sale of sex behind closed doors between consenting adults.
Proposition K has been endorsed by San Francisco's local Democratic Party. But the mayor, district attorney, police and much of the business community oppose it, saying it would increase street prostitution and hamper the fight against sex trafficking, which would remain illegal because it involves forcing people into the sex trade.