As Pride Month rolls along, it’s worth noting that legal weed — not just in California but across the country — owes a huge debt of gratitude to the LGBTQ community.
That’s because activists fighting for access to medical marijuana for terminally ill patients during the HIV/AIDS epidemic of the 1980s and ’90s (most notably Dennis Peron) helped get California’s first-in-the-nation medical marijuana law on the books in 1996. Other states followed suit, setting the stage for legal, nonmedical cannabis use in 16 U.S. states and the District of Columbia (though it remains illegal under federal law).
“You can draw a direct line from this particular period in time and the work of these queer activists and the legalization that created the modern cannabis industry in California,” said Andrew Freeman, co-founder of the L.A.-based Drew Martin cannabis brand with his partner (in and out of business) Drew Martin Gosselin and another business partner. “However, it sometimes feels like that history has been a bit forgotten — especially when you look at queer representation in today’s cannabis space, which tends to be straight, white and male. That’s not reflective of the demographics of those that consume products and that’s not reflective of those who fought for the decriminalization and legalization of the plant.”
Given the legal cannabis movement’s deep roots in the gay activist community, Freeman thinks there’s a larger role LGBTQ-founded brands should play moving forward. “I think as queer-owned companies today, we have a unique opportunity — and a responsibility — to continue the work that was started generations ago,” he said. “The struggle for decriminalization and legalization that was led by these activists is inextricably linked to today’s struggle to repair the damage the war on drugs has caused the Black and brown communities.”
Published: June 01, 2021