An LGBTQ+ Reflection on Pride Month and Cannabis

The cannabis and the LGBTQ+ community connection

Pride Month (LGBTQ+ Pride Month) is celebrated annually in June to honor the 1969 Stonewall riots in New York. It started when a group of LGBTQ+ patrons and supporters of Stonewall Inn stood up against police harassment. They demanded fair and equal treatment. This event marked the beginning of a movement to outlaw discriminatory laws and practices against LGBTQ+ Americans. We celebrate Pride month in June to remember this event and to move America forward on LGBTQ+ issues. In the decades that followed, the movement to legalize medical cannabis also progressed, even overlapping with the LGBTQ+ Rights movement.

Cannabis and the LGBTQ+ community are intertwined and have been since the late 60s. This relationship is primarily due to the initial push for medical cannabis legalization in the U.S. in response to the Aids epidemic. Aids mainly affected the LGBTQ+ community. By the 80s, the Aids epidemic was a big problem. Early treatments for Aids included a mix of medicines that caused pain and nausea. With no reliable treatment available, many people with Aids and their caregivers found it necessary to find relief on their own, and they found their answer in cannabis. One of the earliest incubators for making cannabis available to Aids patients were gay and bisexual men, and the main epicenter was the LGBTQ+ community in San Francisco.

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Activists like Dennis Peron and Brownie May advocated for cannabis legalization through their work with Aids patients in San Francisco. Peron, also known as the “Father of Medical Marijuana,” was an American activist and businessman and was a leader in the legalization of cannabis throughout the 1990s. During this time, he witnessed the suffering of his partner and others who had Aids, and he decided to act. In 1991, Peron led efforts in San Francisco to pass Proposition P, an initiative that made cannabis offenses a low priority for law enforcement.

He kept working for greater access to medical cannabis along with other activists like Brownie May, who sold cannabis-laced brownies out of a basket behind her job as a waitress. She went on to become a significant leader for people in the LGBTQ+ community and cannabis reform. Together they led a movement that eventually led to the legalization of medical cannabis in California when Proposition 215 passed in 1996.

The movements for LGBTQ+ rights and cannabis legalization confront stereotypes and social stigmas through education. Now nearly all states have access to legal, medical cannabis and some forms of policies around LGBTQ+-based workplace discrimination. The progress toward cannabis and LGBTQ+ rights is undeniable, but more work needs to be done to recognize these laws on the federal level. For example, the U.S. military openly discriminates against gays and lesbians. Often the protections that are set in place are ignored, and discrimination does happen. For example, parents have lost child custody simply because of their sexual orientation.

For more information about LGBTQ+ rights visit the ACLU.

Gay marriage became legal in all fifty states in 2015 after the Supreme Court banned states from discriminating against gay marriage in Obergefell v. Hodges. While gay marriage isn’t the only issue facing LGBTQ+ people, its legalization speed up other protections for things like housing, employment, parenting, and medical care. Cannabis has followed a similar path towards legalization. With an increasing number of states legalizing either medical or recreational cannabis, there’s pressure on the current administration to consider a path toward national legalization. The passage of every state’s cannabis program helps provide cannabis users with more protection and care.

Today we can still see riots and protests against law enforcement via the Black Lives Matter Movement. The social and political climate that gave meaning to this movement demonstrates the systemic oppression in our country. As the United States moves away from the criminalization of cannabis, giving rise to a significant new industry, the injustice inflicted upon those who have suffered remains. Through advocacy and awareness, the cannabis community has supported the work to redress the past and continuing harms of unjust laws and policies. That is why most Pride events are in June, to commemorate the anniversary of the Stonewall Rebellion.

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Around the world, Pride event celebrations are diverse in a variety of ways, from parades to parties and protests to proms. Now there are a lot of events since the start of the modern LGBTQ+ liberation movement in the 1970s. Hundreds of independent Pride events have sprung up in cities worldwide. These events reflect the Stonewall Riots. The number of Pride events around the country and the world reflects the diversity of the LGBTQ+ community. In the United States, Pride events vary from place to place. Local groups, often with sponsorships, organize most Pride events, including various events that cater to different community segments. Within the LGBTQ+ community, many other people identify themselves in diverse ways. However, the common link is Pride.

For Bloom City Club, the issue is more comprehensive. Our mission is to help people live their healthiest, happiest life regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity. We take pride in inclusion and diversity, and we stand for tolerance and acceptance. This is true not only for cannabis but for all the LGBTQ+ communities, patients, and customers.  We are thankful for all advocates who put themselves forward for cannabis and LGBTQ+ rights. We would not be here without their hard work, dedication, and selflessness. They promote a future where everyone in every state can access cannabis.

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