The following piece was written by Nick and Cameron of JustAnotherJay.com, a health-centered cannabis photography collective focused on the intersection of the LGBT and cannabis communities, and staying true to the lifestyle. Follow along at @justanotherjayblog
It goes without saying: The United States has seen its fair share of controversy… Especially when it comes to the LGBT and cannabis communities.
What most people fail to realize is that these two communities have more in common than you’d think… In fact, without working together, we wouldn’t be at the stage of legalization we’re at today.
In summary, we’re going to look at how:
Let’s be honest, you’ve likely heard of the 1969 Stonewall Riots in New York City. You may have even heard names like Harvey Milk and Marsha P. Johnson.
What about the name: Dennis Peron?
Shockingly, you’re not alone.
Here’s a hint: Dennis Peron is also known as the “Father of Medical Marijuana” in the United States. In short, he’s the one we have to thank for bringing the actuality of MMJ legalization to America.
In fact, California’s Proposition 21 (this nation’s first-ever cannabis legalization law) wouldn’t have ever been discussed without LGBTQ+ people fighting for medical patients.
But why does this matter?
This shows the direct connection these two communities have had from the beginning. Dennis Peron was more than a cannabis advocate, he was a pioneer in San Francisco’s gay scene in the 1970s and 1980s.
This was not an easy time to be a part of the LGBT community. Don’t forget, this was a time of massive change in the United States.
The 1960’s/70’s brought forth the:
It started with Dennis Peron seeing first-hand the consequences of the government ignoring communities. More specifically, he witnessed the rise of the AIDS epidemic in SF during the late 1980s… During which the community had no idea what people were dying from.
Could you imagine going to a doctor’s office and hearing:
“We can’t help you. We have no idea what is happening – and we don’t have the funding available to research it any further.”
Unfortunately, this was the harsh reality for many living through these turbulent times.
In short: Cannabis Legislation started because of the AIDS epidemic.
Dennis stepped up and did what was needed because his community was suffering and dying. Instead of waiting for help, he dedicated his life to helping patients with cannabis.
Of course, he also had personal reasons… His partner Jonathan West, who used marijuana to treat the symptoms associated with AIDS, died in 1990.
We also need to remember that by this time, the United States had already been affected by the HIV/AIDS epidemic for a while. In fact, “the virus reached its peak in ’95 having infected over 774,467 people in the United States” according to the CDC.
Let’s also not be naive… The US was not the friendliest place to be for HIV/AIDS patients, especially LGBT+ individuals.
When the US Administration spoke about HIV/AIDS in 1982, they called it the “gay disease”. More specifically: GRID (Gay-related immune deficiency).
In fact, it took President Reagan until 1987 to say the word “AIDS” in a speech. And? Surprise, surprise… Reagan was a key player in the misinformation of sexual education and AIDS.
“What school children should be taught about AIDS”,
President Reagan stated that:
“Abstinence is severely lacking in Education…One of the things that has been wrong with too much of our education is that no kind of values has been taught into our schools…”
Some say that this was a “product of the times” and that the then-president was doing what was valued as best…
Yet, you can’t ignore the complete lack of support the administration put towards AIDS research. Looking back, it becomes easier to call this era the: “Silent war on AIDS”. Simply put, abstinence doesn’t apply to everyone. That can be said about today and the 1980s. The only thing the Reagan administration did was stall HIV/AIDS research as long as they could manage.
Journalist Lester Kinsolving asked the (at the time) Press Secretary Larry Speakes: “how the administration would protect American citizens”. Instead of stern seriousness, the room erupted in laughter. The response being: “he and the president have yet to speak about the [growing] epidemic”.
This was being treated as a comedy routine… Rather than respecting a journalist doing their job, they laughed at an epidemic.
Why Was Dennis and His Family so Passionate About Medical Marijuana?
Now, I know we’ve been talking non-stop about Dennis Peron; but we can’t forget his support group/family.
Why were they so passionate about medical marijuana legalization?
Dennis noticed the benefits cannabis brought to patients.
Cannabis helped these patients eat, reduce nausea, and (most importantly) negate the side-effects associated with AIDS medication AZT.
That said, Dennis quickly became the “go-to” guy for cannabis in San Francisco, especially in the Castro. Unfortunately, he couldn’t be the underground supplier for all of California: and he knew it.
Unfortunately, everyone knew someone getting sick… So much so that Dennis decided it was time for change to come to this country.
No more underground cannabis clubs, no more alleyway deals… Dennis knew what needed to be done.
He and his team of cannabis advocates worked tirelessly to get Proposition 215 added to the 1996 California state ballot.
Can you guess what happened next?
Medical marijuana was passed state-wide by 56%!
What was the next goal for the community?
Do LGBTQ+ people fit into this goal?
I’ll tell you now: we have a large handful of dedicated, hardworking people in the space that belong to both communities.
To show the power of LGBTQ+’s in cannabis, Nick and I recently hosted a cannabis party with Space Coyote!
What made this event so magical?
The incredible presence of cannabis LGBT artists attending this celebration.
We laughed, smoked and celebrated life.. but we all knew that there’s so much work to be done about inclusion.
To be honest, the question “where do we go from here?” is always on my mind.
Why am I so concerned about this conversation?
During this most recent trip, we were blessed with an intimate tour of the Castro castle… Dennis’s home and safe-haven for fellow LGBTQIA people…
But you could tell the air was tense.
Not tense because of ill-feelings, but over the conversation of the LGBTQIA community and where we “fit in”.
Dennis’ family (many of which are still residing at the Castro Castle) came right out and asked it:
Is the fight over in the cannabis scene? Do we as queer people fit into the conversation anymore? How can we continue Dennis’ legacy?
“NO! The fight is not over and if we want to be apart of the conversation, we need to speak some truths”
It was that moment we realized; the queer community was being written out of cannabis history. We won’t sit by and allow the pioneers of this community to be forgotten, nor will we allow the torches to go on un-passed.
That said, who do we see taking those torches and continuing the legacy of LGBTQ+ cannabis pioneers?
is the photographer behind Naked Boys Smoking Weed. In his art, Alec brings us back to the roots and showcases the simplicity of cannabis use. With men of all different sizes, shapes, and backgrounds… Using his impeccable taste, he showcases what cannabis really is: intimate and sensual.
In an industry where women are constantly sexualized, Alec flips the script by tastefully eroticizing the male body.
We agree that the true cannabis lifestyle is showing the reality of the humans who use it.
It’s no mystery the trans community has gone through insane hardships. That didn’t stop Renee Gagnon! She is both the first:
Renee not only built her company/team to raise $3.7 million in funding but also took her brand public. She is an incredible advocate for diversity.
One of her main goals is to bring awareness to the benefits of having minorities part of our companies… Think: people of color, women, and any other disenfranchised group you can think of!
Among other things, she praises states like California, which is working to help minority groups harmed by the war on drugs, supporting them with social equity programs and licenses. Renee isn’t a self-proclaimed voice of reason for trans people in the space… But she is creating an example of what it looks like to create diversity in cannabis.
Like we stated earlier: cannabis legalization started because of HIV/AIDS.
How do these still intersect?
Khadijah Tribble is actually both an HIV and cannabis activist who studied marijuana policy at the Harvard Kennedy School. She now leads a social organization called Marijuana Matters; a non-profit committed to:
Listen: It’s time to get real.
How do we do that?
Simple. We create a conversation around the proud Trans sex educator Buck Angel.
In fact, very few even go down the road of talking about healthy sex within the trans community.
Let’s make one thing clear: Buck doesn’t hold back. He believes that if we don’t have the conversation about sex we destroy self-awareness within our community.
How does relate to cannabis?
By creating conversation around these topics, we can break walls that would have never been cracked otherwise. More-so, Buck is no stranger to innovation.
In reality: he’s pioneering a new wave of sexual conversation and products in cannabis. Specifically: with cannabis products like “BuckShot”, he’s creating awareness and education towards sexual expression in cannabis. For those of you who are unaware, BuckShot is a CBD infused intimacy drink that stimulates both men and women. It’s been reviewed as the “ultimate all-natural aphrodisiac” and is safe and effective for people of all sexes and gender types.
defines the aspect of what it means to “break the stigma”.
Despite his 200k followers, Bradley always maintains a level of authenticity. No matter if he’s building a conversation on cannabis’ effect on mental health, PTSD, etc.
Instead of creating content that makes you anxious for the future of cannabis media… King has a beautiful way of injecting awareness of mental illness. Rather than pushing over-consumption; Bradley is doing more with his advocacy and platform in the space.