How the LGBTQ+ community changed the cannabis world
While there are endless ways to celebrate Pride month this June, we can’t overlook telling a key part of history, one that many cannabis lovers aren’t even aware of. Did you know that the LGBTQ+ community spearheaded advocacy for cannabis access and changed the future for the plant and everyone who uses it? Today we’ll talk about the intersection of LGBTQ+ communities and cannabis.
Many people don’t realize just how important advocates in the ‘80s dealing with the HIV/AIDS crisis were to the future of cannabis. The LGBTQ+ community was disproportionately affected by HIV/AIDS and short on support for the crisis, but cannabis was a tool that could be used for relief from symptoms.
Let’s start with Dennis Peron. While many cannabis lovers don’t know this man’s name, he is a crucial part of cannabis history. And if you follow cannabis history, you’re probably familiar with his story. The openly gay man from San Francisco was well-known in the community and a strong supporter of cannabis use. When the HIV/AIDS crisis came to town, Peron realized the government wasn’t interested in saving his friends’ lives or helping their symptoms. By 1990, his partner had died from AIDS, further fueling his passion and advocacy.
Peron knew how much cannabis helped provide relief to his partner Jonathan West. He used it to stay comfortable during his terminal illness. Still, there was no such thing as medical marijuana at the time. West was arrested for possession of cannabis, though he died shortly after being acquitted .
San Francisco Buyers Club
Following the death of his life partner and the painful experience of watching friend after friend succumb to HIV/AIDS, Peron went on to set the groundwork for a future of medical cannabis access.
Founded in 1994, The San Francisco Buyers Club was the first-ever cannabis dispensary. San Francisco was already pretty canna-savvy, though, as the location of the dispensary took over an existing cannabis collective. Plus, Dennis Peron was known to go around town offering his cannabis to others before the crisis began. And so, the buyers club was formed by John Entwistle and Dennis Peron. They were also helped by activist Mady Jane Rathbun, better known as Brownie Mary. Notably, Brownie Mary had been arrested in 1992 for possessing nearly three pounds of cannabis to make brownies for fellow patients. But even after her release, she continued to fight.
The San Francisco Buyers Club provided necessary care for many patients who had no other access to relief from their symptoms. Many of these patients met a tragic fate, but the buyer’s club was there to help take some of that pain away.
Its legacy carried on. The people involved in the buyers club weren’t going to stop at providing a reprieve for patients in their corner of San Francisco. Instead, Peron and Brownie Mary worked on legislative text that would eventually become Prop. 215, better known as California’s first medical marijuana initiative.
There’s a lot of story to tell when we look at the influence of the LGBTQ+ community on the current cannabis industry. We don’t want to sugarcoat it. The incredible advocates who pushed for access to cannabis for suffering HIV/AIDS patients were extremely brave, and their actions did not come without consequences.
The group faced arrests, raids, and even getting shot at. It wasn’t a pretty sight, but they continued on day after day because they were dedicated to providing safe access to cannabis for people who needed it.
Their actions may have been met with violence and consequences, but they also spurred the growth of a new world: Prop 215.
In 1996, California voters said yes to Prop 215, legalizing medical marijuana for those with a qualifying condition alleviated by cannabis.
Isn’t that wild? Not even 30 years ago, medical cannabis was barely recognized as a thing. We had advocates like the brave crew at the buyers club who knew of its medical potentials and did it anyway, but as a whole, it didn’t really exist.
Fast-forward to 2022 and you can come into our Fitchburg dispensary with or without a medical permit. It’s legal for anyone over 21.
And we wouldn’t be here without Prop 215. And we can thank the LGBTQ+ advocates who got us there.
How did Pride begin?
Talking about Dennis Peron, Brownie Mary, and other incredible advocates is only one part of Pride. So what led to us setting aside the month of June for celebrating Pride?
Well, if you’re not familiar with Stonewall, let us give you a brief overview. And then go look up more, because it is extremely interesting. For now, we’ll just walk you through what got us here:
The Stonewall Riots birthed Pride. Stonewall Inn was a well-known LGBTQ bar in New York, and it became the target of a 1969 police raid. Patrons and employees were arrested, and the crowd of people present became increasingly agitated and tense. After an officer hit a patron on the head while forcing them into his squad car, the crowd began to riot.
A six-day protest ensued outside of the bar. And a year later, a group of supporters returned to Stonewall Inn, marching down the streets exclaiming pride over being gay. Since that historical moment, we know June as Pride month.
And now you know! The history of cannabis is tied directly to the LGBTQ+ community. Without the advocacy of so many leaders, we wouldn’t be able to offer you recreational weed in Massachusetts today.
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