You may not immediately think about the LGBTQ+ community when you think about the cannabis industry, but you should. Cannabis and LGBTQ+ advocacy share a deep history. In fact, it’s unlikely that the modern cannabis industry would exist without the hard work done by people with experience advocating for LGBTQ+ issues.
Understanding the connections between cannabis and the LGBTQ+ community is vital for anyone advocating to expand cannabis legalization. Keep reading to learn about key insights into how these communities intersect and what it means for cannabusinesses in the modern world.
The Shared Roots of LGBTQ+ and Cannabis Activism
For much of the 20th century, both cannabis and participating in the LGBTQ+ community were illegal. In fact, the cultural acceptance of one tended to rise and fall in connection with the other. For instance, in the 1960s, the hippie movement led to many people becoming more accepting of both LGBTQ+ people and cannabis use.
This trend reversed in the 1970s. Conservative politics and the AIDS crisis led to the so-called “War on Drugs.” Cannabis was deemed a Schedule I substance, and LGBTQ+ people heavily suffered from a disease that the president believed was a divine punishment.
However, advocates fought for decades to change opinions and laws. By the late 1990s, the tide slowly began to turn. California legalized cannabis for medical use in 1996 and permitted same-sex civil unions — the precursor to same-sex marriage — in 1999. Meanwhile, in 2015 gay marriage became legal nationwide, and California legalized recreational marijuana in 2016.
Current LGBTQ+ Leaders and Participants in the Cannabis Industry
There’s a reason for all of this overlap. Many of the activists for LGBTQ+ causes are the same people advocating for cannabis legalization. Some of the most well-known shared leaders and participants include:
- Alice B. Toklas: The non-heterosexual life partner of Gertrude Stein, Toklas was also a well-known author. One of her best-known books is the Alice B. Toklas Cookbook, which includes multiple recipes for cooking with cannabis.
- James Baldwin: A famous author and gay man, Baldwin frequently wrote about the intersection of the LGTBQ+ community, race, and culture, cannabis included.
- Mary Jane Rathbun: Also known as “Brownie Mary,” Rathbun would bring cannabis brownies to AIDS sufferers to help relieve their pain and was arrested for her efforts, sparking the beginning of the modern medical marijuana movement.
- Dennis Peron: Vietnam vet and gay man Peron was a close friend of Harvey Milk. He was also the primary author of the original medical marijuana bill in California and used cannabis issues to unite San Francisco residents.
Modern Legal Support Overlaps Across Cannabis and LGBTQ+ Concerns
Most importantly for modern cannabusinesses, modern legal support for cannabis and LGBTQ+ concerns overlaps significantly. Activists from New York to California are pushing for both broader cannabis legalization and LGBTQ+ support at the same time. This includes pushing for LGBTQ+ inclusion in the cannabis industry and creating foundations like Marijuana Matters to re-enfranchise marginalized and diverse communities in the industry.
The LGBTQ+ Cannabis Industry Continues to Grow
If you’ve started a cannabusiness, it’s important to remember the history of the LGBTQ+ cannabis industry. Advocates for cannabis and LGBTQ+ concerns often overlap. If you’re looking to make space in the industry for marginalized identities, Bespoke Financial can help you grow your cannabusiness and provide more opportunities.