It’s not nearly as well-known as it should be: the foundations for medical marijuana were laid by the LGBTQ community. Namely, we owe it to People with Aids (PWAs) and the system of caregiving that was set up to help people whose illness and deaths were ignored by the state.
The story is complex, but it starts with PWAs looking for relief for medically induced nausea in addition to AIDS-caused weight and muscle loss. People quickly realized that cannabis is a solution to both a lack of appetite and constant vomiting. So PWAs opened the first medical dispensaries. The illegal San Francisco Cannabis Buyers’ Club popped up in 1992, run by dealer and gay activist Dennis Peron and his friends. In 1995, a political action committee Peron formed worked to write up the Compassionate Use Care Act of 1996. It was the first-ever medical marijuana program in the country and passed with 55.6% of the state’s support. Because of Peron and his friends’ tireless work, Alaska, Oregon, and Washington also developed their own medical marijuana programs in 1998.
The hard work done by PWAs and the LGBTQ community at large is undeniably the root of our current state-by-state medical and recreational cannabis systems.
The straight, cis face of the industry
We’ve all met the stereotype: the perma-stoned cis white guy with dreadlocks and a Bob Marley poster who has a six-foot bong and an affinity for girls in bikinis covered with nugs. Today’s stoner investors and weed industry participants are clad a little differently, sure—maybe foregoing tie-dye shirts for fitted suits—but at the essence, the demographic is the same.
As of 2015 women made up an average of 36% of the “executive” positions in the marijuana industry (mainly in testing labs), but anyone who’s read articles about even female frontrunners of weed companies know the story. It’s upper-class, middle-aged cis white women running the show, granola momtrepreneurs who have found that they want to capitalize on the market of women who they think are intimidated by admittedly misogynist stoner culture. It’s still a perfect parallel to the tech bro investors who are sweeping the industry.
And while these people battle it out for command of the industry, members of the community to which we owe everything have been left behind. Tessa Love at Slate interviewed drag queen, activist, and choreographer Laganja Estranja (aka Jay Jackson) about the lack of presence of LGBTQ individuals in the weed space. Even though Estranja is known for being a gay person on the weed scene,
The first time he appeared in [drag] at a cannabis cup several years ago, he felt so uncomfortable that he hasn’t dressed in drag at such an event since. [He said,] “I should feel safe at a cannabis cup. It’s like, come on bro, we’re just smoking pot. What’s the big deal if I’m tucked and giving you a show?” writes Tessa Love.
Yet another fight for LGBTQ inclusivity
It makes some unfortunate sense that the LGBTQ community would be coming up against pushback; not all stoners are the liberal freewheelers you’d expect. Those on the right side of the political spectrum, including Trumpists and libertarians, are increasingly supporting marijuana, and the influx of this element might certainly mean an increase in already existing contention between LGBTQ supporters and the intolerant.
“When I was creating Laganja Estranja, I thought it would be a bunch [of] hippie stoners, one-love, accepting all, because to me those are the ideas and properties of the plant […] So when I found out that I was conflicted with feeling comfortable in what should be my own environment, created by my people, that’s when I realized, ‘Oh wow. We’ve got a lot to do in this industry.” Laganja Estranja tells Slate.
There’s no data about the participation of the LGBTQ community in regards to employment in the marijuana industry, suggesting that perhaps the industry feels that it is an unimportant element of diversity. Figures do show that the LGBTQ community constitutes a significant percentage of the customers in the industry, but if stoners at a kooky weed convention can’t even accept a drag queen, how is the industry at large meant to integrate LGBTQ individuals into its presence and workplaces?
The post You Can Thank The AIDS Crisis For Weed Dispensaries appeared first on HERB.