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Pride + Cannabis: A Match Made In History

By Corey Morrill

May 4, 2022

Pride is about being out and proud as your genuine self and calling attention to the issues that still suppress the LGBTQIA+ community. Dragonfly Wellness has a mission to support our patients and our community and we simply could not do that without supporting Pride and everything it stands for. Afterall, it's likely that medical cannabis would not exist as it does without the efforts of LGBTQIA+ activists.

LGBTQIA+ Activism And Medical Cannabis

The use of cannabis as a form of medicine is well documented and can be traced back thousands of years across many different civilizations. But after the United States enacted cannabis prohibition, the conversation around its use as medicine largely fell out of the public consciousness until we were struck by the AIDS crisis.

In 1981, Queer culture was thriving in cities like New York, San Francisco, and Los Angeles. The Stonewall Riots happened just twelve years earlier and true public acceptance seemed to be within grasp. Then a terrible epidemic swept the nation. One that went unacknowledged on the federal level for many years due to deeply racist and homophobic opinions of high level officials.

AIDS was killing BIPOC gay men on a daily basis as the Queer community was left to fend for itself. People had to watch friends and family succumb to a terrible illness with little recourse. But one of the few things that was able to help these terminally-ill patients in their time of need was cannabis.

Cannabis had been around in the gay and trans community for ages so they were no stranger to its potential relief when it came to the hellish symptoms of AIDS. Doctors at the time were prescribing experimental treatments that often came with their own awful side-effects, so cannabis was seen as a friendlier alternative. It was also the only option for many in the BIPOC community who were often systematically excluded from official drug trials.

Enter Dennis Peron

Dennis Peron and his partner Jonathan West lived in San Francisco's Castro District throughout much of the '80s. When West died of AIDS in 1991, Peron became an incredibly prominent and outspoken advocate of medical cannabis. He had been selling it in the Castro District for years, and after seeing the immense positive effect it had on his partner and friends he would not rest until it was legally accessible.

Peron started by advocating for San Francisco's Proposition P which demanded that the city legalize medical cannabis. It passed by 80%, but Peron was just getting started. He then opened the San Francisco Cannabis Buyers Club, the first public cannabis dispensary in the United States.

He also succeeded in making medical cannabis legal state-wide. In 1996 California passed the Compassionate Use Act, becoming the first state to make medical cannabis a reality. Because of that precedent, we have seen a cascading effect of states choosing to legalize medical cannabis. All due, in no small part, to the consistent and passionate activism of the LGBTQIA+ community.

Have Pride In A Better Future

The prohibition of cannabis has significantly contributed to the marginalization of the LGBTQIA+ community and is inherently racist. Nearly half of all HIV cases in the country today affect the Black community despite making up only 13% of the population, and people of color are 3.7 times more likely to be arrested for possession of cannabis despite it being equally as prevalent in white communities. But as Dennis Peron and other activist heroes like him have shown, when a community comes together to help and protect each other, amazing things can be accomplished.

So before you take that edible to help you sleep tonight, or take a few puffs off your vape pen to keep you going during Pride, make sure you think about the brave people who fought hard and sacrificed everything to get us where we are today. Remember that they are still taking to the streets and shouting for justice. We honor them this day, and each day we are able to continue supporting our patients.