The LGBT Community and Cannabis
As we celebrate Pride Month at the Farmacy locations alongside millions of LGBTQ people and allies worldwide, it’s an excellent time to reflect on the essential role that LGBTQ people have played in the acceptance, legalization, and scientific understanding of cannabis that makes our store possible today.
With that in mind, we wanted to briefly share a bit about the shared history of the LGBTQ and cannabis communities and how that partnership has shaped the world we know now. We also hope to explore how we can move forward together and improve the ways that sexual minorities are treated within the industry now and in the future.
LGBT Community and Cannabis: A Shared History of Marginalization
For decades, cannabis users and the LGBTQ community have had plenty in common. Both are groups that have been marginalized by the general public to varying degrees throughout their history, having to fight for both legal recognition and equality under law as well as social acceptance by their communities.
While there’s been significant crossover between these two communities for decades, this relationship became even stronger and more powerful during the terrifying period of the AIDS epidemic in the late 80s and 90s. As infections grew and expanded at a horrible speed, with no cure in sight, patients and advocates looked for ways to treat their symptoms.
Many LGBTQ people were already aware of the amazing benefits of cannabis for reducing pain. Much like today, when nearly one-third of LGBTQ people report using cannabis in the last year, LGBTQ people in the 80s and 90s used cannabis at a higher rate than the general public.
However, the illegal status of cannabis made accessing it a challenge. But soon, thanks largely to the actions of advocates in the LGBTQ community, that was going to change.
Dennis Peron: A Leader for Change
Dennis Peron, an openly gay activist and Air Force veteran who lived in California, had actually been fighting to legalize cannabis since long before the AIDS epidemic. When AIDS arrived, he opened a cannabis buyers club in order to get it into the hands of as many patients as possible.
The Beginnings of Legalization
In 1996, Peron wrote Proposition 215— a bill proposing the legalization of cannabis for medicinal use throughout all of California. Supporters first campaigned for Proposition P, which established San Francisco’s support for legalization. From there, they fought for statewide legalization. After a long series of setbacks, including vetoes by the Governor and continued resistance from the Clinton administration, Peron and other supporters turned their attention to the public. They formed the Californians for Compassionate Use PAC— an organization that included many members of the LGBTQ community— and gathered more than 400,000 signatures to get Proposition 215 on the ballot.
Three former presidents, local law enforcement, drug prevention organizations, and many city and state officials all opposed the bill while strong support came from medical professionals, cancer survivors, and some supportive politicians.
Finally, Proposition 215 would pass with 55.6% of the vote. Almost immediately, other states began to legalize medical marijuana. It was a massive step forward for cannabis, and it began with one gay man’s effort to honor the memory of his partner.
A Continued Allyship— With More Work to Do
Both the LGBTQ community and the cannabis community have come a long way. But there’s still a long way to go, both for acceptance in each community and in the way they interact.
For example, while many acknowledge the legal cannabis industry as one of the most welcoming of people from all backgrounds and orientations, there’s still work to be done to help ensure that LGBTQ people, people of color, and other marginalized individuals have a voice within the industry.
Meanwhile, legal cannabis companies have a responsibility to be proactive in the fight for further decriminalization and legalization of cannabis— particularly for the thousands who are currently incarcerated due to marijuana charges for crimes that are now legal.
We’ll keep working to ensure that we never lose focus on how we can not only avoid prejudice or injustice in our own practices, but how we can be active allies in moving both the LGBTQ community and the cannabis community forward.
We’ve always been in this together. Let’s keep it that way.