It’s the weekend of the Pride Parade in our hometown of Seattle – celebrated the last weekend of June, Pride Month. With that in mind, we wanted to share a little about the history of cannabis in the fight for LGBTQ rights. To learn more or get connected, be sure to check out The Full Spectrum, an organization for the LGBTQ cannabis industry and community.
You may be wondering: what does cannabis have to do with the LGBTQ community? As it turns out, quite a lot! Cannabis and LGBTQ culture have a long and intertwined history of activism, advocacy, and community. In fact, some of the pioneers of the cannabis movement were also LGBTQ icons who fought for both causes with courage and passion.
Let me take you back to the 1980s, when AIDS was ravaging the gay community in the United States. At that time, there was no effective treatment or cure for AIDS, and many people suffered from debilitating symptoms such as pain, nausea, weight loss, and depression. Cannabis was known to provide relief for these patients. “Some people with AIDS have a motto: 'Die high’,” wrote the Washington Post in 1990. But, like much of the gay community itself, cannabis was illegal and stigmatized.
That's when some brave souls decided to take action and demand access to medical cannabis for AIDS patients. One of them was Dennis Peron, a gay activist and Vietnam veteran who had witnessed the benefits of cannabis firsthand. Peron opened the first cannabis dispensary in San Francisco, called the Cannabis Buyers Club, where he distributed cannabis to people with AIDS and other conditions. He also co-authored Proposition 215, the first medical cannabis law in the United States, which was passed by California voters in 1996.
Peron was not alone in his fight. He was joined by other LGBTQ activists such as Harvey Milk, the first openly gay elected official in California; Bob Randall and Alice O'Leary, who founded the Alliance for Cannabis Therapeutics; Ken and Barbara Jenks, who won a landmark court case for medical necessity; and many others who risked their lives and freedom to help others.
The AIDS crisis was a catalyst for the medical cannabis movement, which in turn paved the way for the legalization of recreational cannabis in many states today. The LGBTQ community played a vital role, not only by advocating for their own rights, but also by promoting social tolerance and diversity of lifestyles. Cannabis and LGBTQ culture share a common spirit of resistance, resilience, and celebration.
Today, the cannabis and LGBTQ communities continue to support each other in various ways. There are many LGBTQ-owned and -friendly cannabis businesses, organizations, and events that cater to the diverse needs and preferences of this community. There are also studies that show that cannabis can help with some of the unique challenges that LGBTQ people may face.
As we celebrate Pride Month this June, let's remember the history of LGBTQ people in cannabis and honor their contributions to this amazing plant. Let's also enjoy the benefits of cannabis with gratitude and responsibility. And let's keep fighting for justice and equality for all people.