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Canna-Connection: PRIDE pt.2

To understand the connection between the legality around cannabis & the LGBT community, we have to go back to the 1920’s -- The Harlem Renaissance

The Harlem Renaissance (1920-1935), where Black gay and trans people flourished in the night life. Parties, music, lust, love, alcohol & weed. Gay & Trans (specifically Black & Brown) people could feel safe & welcomed while having fun & creating some of the most influential art & music, such as Jazz & Blues. This time was a literary & artistic movement for Black people but also a time for sexual & gender liberation. Explicit same-sex lyrics were expressed in Blues music. Lots (if not all) of this music being made under the influence of cannabis, allowing artists to freely express their desires. This scene became mainstreamed & white gay people (poor & elite) started to immerse themselves into the nightlife community.

During this time, Harry Anslinger was working in the government for prohibition enforcement and then became apart of the Federal Bureau of Narcotics in the 30’s when prohibition had ended. He became associated and connected with influential politicians and the pharmaceutical industry-- the beginning of the war on drugs. He mainly focused on cocaine & heroin arrests until he realized there were minimal cases in it. But cannabis was popular, especially among Black, Brown, and Queer people so he built his cases & propaganda around that. He called Jazz the “devil’s music” and stated that cannabis makes Black/Brown people violent and white women attracted to Black men. Not too long after the end of the Harlem Renaissance era, Anslinger helped passed the “Marijuana Tax Act of 1937” which started the hefty regulation & taxation on cannabis cultivation, distribution and possession. This was mainly in response to any fears about Mexican immigrants bringing cannabis into the states but also to continue instilling laws that lead to arrests of the Black/Brown queer community. Jazz still being popular within the Black community, he targeted musician such as Billie Holiday & their drug use. This didn’t stop the lifestyles of many Black & Brown people in this community. Cannabis was still heavily used for recreational purposes but also medicinal. Transitioning into the Great Depression, queer people were prevented from working in bars & clubs, and employers in general just didn’t want to hire them in fear of the trouble or lack of customers it may bring. This made many queer people turn towards prostitution for income and using more substances outside of cannabis.

Police brutality increased on the queer and PoC community. There were more raids on gay clubs & bars leading to more arrests of queer Black and Brown people. A raid at the Stonewall Inn on June 1969 where 13 were arrested, turned into an almost week long protest & riot against police brutality on the LGBT community. Not too much longer after that, Nixon declares the War on Drugs in ‘71. More money was poured into drug control agencies creating the DEA in ‘73. From then till the end of Carter’s presidency, cannabis became criminalized in several states. Propaganda around cannabis being violent & associated with Black & Gay culture was used to get parents of teenagers on board as well (i.e Reefer Madness).

The Harlem Renaissance was an era of Black and Brown queer PRIDE and cannabis was heavily apart of it all. Knowing that cannabis became criminalized due to the racist and homophobic propaganda of government officials is crucial for all consumers, especially owners of large cannabis companies today. People are still in prison for cannabis possession and distribution while the cannabis industry is worth BILLIONS now. Organizations like The Last Prisoners Project are continuously working on making sure those imprisoned for non-violent cannabis charges are released.

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