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Canna-Connection: Pride pt.3

Updated: Jun 27, 2023

The most know connection between the LGBT community and the legality of cannabis is the HIV/AIDS epidemic in the 80s-00s.

From the late 30s, gay people were facing harsh living conditions. There was an increase on policing on queer people around the time the Marijuana Tax Act was implemented. The federal government passed laws that prohibited the employment of queer people, some state laws prohibited serving them, and media prohibited the appearance of them. This inevitably lead to queer people without legal work or at risk of losing them if outed. Propaganda by medical officials and government leaders was spread about how queer people are "deviant" and "criminals". By the 50s/60s, there was heavy policing and brutality on queer people, leading up to the Stonewall Riots. The policing and bigotry didn't stop afterwards though. It became instilled in the system.

HIV/AIDS existed well before the 80s but it became a pandemic when it started to impact more cis- white middle class “straight” men. For the first few years of knowing this virus was existing and destroying the LGBT community, it was not only dismissed but mocked by political leaders. The war on drugs & anti-gay movement fueled this epidemic by criminalizing drug users while decreasing safe sex & safe drug use. Cannabis was already heavily used in the LGBT social scene for recreational and medicinal purposes. During the epidemic, cannabis became the most useful & accessible medicine to combat the physical & psychological symptoms of HIV/AIDS (nausea, pain, anxiety, depression). It helped most with developing an appetite and decreasing nausea. There were still limits to the access of cannabis due to the laws on posession. There was also limited pharmaceutical medicine and it was usually a mixture of various types of pills. AZT was the most common pharmaceutical medicine but it was not accessible and it had severe side effects. Cannabis was the only medicine keeping the queer community alive, initiating the movement for medicinal cannabis legalization.

This push for legalization started in the early 90s. Dennis Peron, a veteran and cannabis advocate, initated this movement. When he use to sell, a large portion of customer base were people who had HIV. When his partner died from the disease, he started organizing for Proposition P in San Francisco to permit medical cannabis. Also starting the first public dispensary in the San Francisco area, The Cannabis Buyers Club. Along with the LGBT community and other core activists such as Mary Jane Rathbun, Kioyshi Kuromiya, and Paul Scott, the legalization of medical cannabis was hranted to California in 1996 under Proposition 215 a.k.a, the Compassionate Use Act.

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