The cannabis and LGBTQ rights movements have been connected from the beginning, as they mutually supported reform throughout the decades.
“Arguably, neither would exist as they do today if not for the other,” said Tyme Ferris, founder and CEO of cannabis brand Pantheon Collective.
The decades have been tumultuous for each effort. Both movements saw positive progress in the 1960s. Some states decriminalized homosexual activity, and various favorable Kennedy and Johnson-era reports on the plant were submitted.
Per the Controlled Substances Act, cannabis was listed as a Schedule I drug, considered to have maximum abuse potential but no medicinal value. This classification came “Even though the Shafer Commission, formed by Nixon, recommended decriminalizing cannabis,” said Pantheon Collective co-founder Thomas Kupiec.
The 80s were equally devastating for both movements. As the drug war raged on, HIV and AIDS impacted the gay community as it reeled from the virus. Between 1981 and 1990, over 100,000 people died from AIDS, according to the Centers for Disease Control.
As the disease ravaged the U.S., President Ronald Reagan chose not to address the issue until 1987. At the same time, he continued the Nixon-era War on Drugs, headlined by the ‘Just Say No’ campaign.
Without medical guidance, marijuana proved effective in treating various HIV and AIDS-related symptoms, including wasting syndrome, nausea, chronic pain and anxiety.
“In most places deeply touched by the AIDS crisis, there’s a nexus between marijuana reform and gay rights,” said journalist and podcaster Jay Lassiter.
Rather than pushing for cannabis access, America doubled down on punishment. Bills like 1984’s Comprehensive Crime Control Act, 1986’s Anti-Drug Abuse Act and the controversial three-strike sentencing bills were enacted.
Still, LGBTQ advocates pushed on for the rights of their community and medical cannabis access.
In 1996, the decades-long efforts of the two movements helped push California’s Proposition 215 to become the first bill to legalize medical marijuana. The bill’s co-author, Dennis Peron, had been a cannabis advocate since the 1970s after his partner used marijuana while living with AIDS.
Since then, the two movements have remained closely linked, for better or worse. Neil Lequia, founder and board president of cannabis-industry LGBTQ organization The Full Spectrum, said queer individuals are more likely to experience substance abuse and mental health issues than straight individuals.
Lequia said cannabis use “is a coping mechanism” to combat pains associated with their queer lifestyle, including bullying and family separation.
Despite the increased likelihood of use, he feels that queer people are not adequately represented in the cannabis industry.
“I see a lack of us in the industry despite being more likely to use it,” Lequia said.
To Read The Rest Of This Article By Andrew Ward on Benzinga
Published: May 31, 2022
Founder & Interim Editor of L.A. Cannabis News