Listen to this article now

Although it may not seem like it on the surface, cannabis reform and LGBTQ+ rights have been intertwined for decades. Both movements have supported each other from their inception, and neither would exist today if not for the other.

So why are these two movements linked? Learn more about how cannabis and LGBTQ+ communities are connected.

Rising and Falling Together

While achieving their goals has been a hard journey for both, these movements saw a ton of positive progress starting around the 1960s. From the decriminalization of homosexual activity to the favorable reports about cannabis during the Kennedy administration and the use of pot by popular musicians like Louis Armstrong, there was hope for the future. There was, however, also some regression for both during the 70s.

During the Nixon era, the Controlled Substances Act was put into effect, listing cannabis as a Schedule I drug. This type of drug was defined as one with maximum potential for abuse with no medicinal value. Even though the Shafer Commission was pushing for decriminalizing cannabis, other lawmakers moved ahead with making it even harder to access.

Similarly, the LGBTQ+ movement also saw a lot of vacillating during the 70s. Gay and lesbian couples were becoming more accepted in pop culture and media, but the assassination of Harvey Milk and a successful campaign in Miami to repeal gay-rights legislation were incredibly devastating.

The successes and failures of the LGBTQ+ and cannabis movements always seemed to be correlated; one influencing the other, as the two groups are called the same types of people.

A Nexus of Events

In the 80s, there was a nexus of events that drew the two organizations even closer together. There was a big push for the war on drugs which received a new platform condemning cannabis, while HIV and AIDS were unfairly attributed to gay activity. As this turned the tide against both movements, there was something unexpected that tied them together even more tightly.

Even as a public opinion against both movements faltered, marijuana was being proven effective in the treatment of AIDS and HIV-related symptoms. Doctors were seeing the positive effects of cannabis products and CBD-enhanced accessories on nausea, anxiety, chronic pain, and wasting syndrome.

Instead of celebrating the benefits of cannabis in medicine, America doubled down on its original opinions, making the punishments for cannabis use even harsher. Even as the Comprehensive Crime Control Act and the Anti-Drug Abuse Act went into effect, LGBTQ+ advocates were pushing for their rights and for access to medical cannabis, as well as hemp and CBD remedies.

Big Wins in the 90s

With a decades-long movement reaching its peak, cannabis saw a big win in California in 1996. A cannabis advocate from the 70s and his partner co-authored a bill to push forward the legalization of medical marijuana. Dennis Peron’s partner had been living with AIDS, and both had seen first-hand the benefits of medical cannabis on his symptoms.

The Why Behind the Connection

So it seems that the LGBTQ+ movement and the cannabis initiative had a few things in common that ensured they were connected. First was the call to the young and disenfranchised who wished to live freely – a trend in both movements. The second was the necessity of cannabis used medically to combat the symptoms of AIDS.

Another reason the two are connected is because of the unfortunate tendency towards substance use in queer individuals. As people who battle depression and anxiety associated with social unacceptance, family separation, and bullying, many in the LGBTQ+ turn to cannabis and other drugs as a coping mechanism.

Leaders of These Movements

There are many notable names in the modern LGBTQ+ and cannabis communities that blended both missions into their repertoire. For example, Dan Goldman was a freelance writer and founder of an LGBTQ+ drug legalization organization called leGaylize It! There was also a lot of cross-cultural influence in big cities that saw a lot of art and performance, as many gay artists were proponents of cannabis, using it to fuel their creativity.

From Louis Armstrong to Allen Ginsberg, straight and gay artists alike were strong supporters of legalizing marijuana from as early as the 1960s. Harvey Milk even allied with Mary Jane Rathburn to help advance the medical cannabis movement in the San Francisco area. Milk was actually an essential part of the support for legal cannabis, aiming to decriminalize cannabis and pushing for recognition of its medical assets.

Modern movement leaders like Keith Stroup, Malcolm Gregory Scott, and Dr. Doug Ward all credit AIDS patients with helping sway public perception about cannabis. Their stories are the core of many cannabis legalization movements and helped advance reform throughout the United States. They’ve exposed their misery and private lives to reframe the discussion about cannabis.

A Modern Shift in Participation

As cannabis becomes more mainstream and others join in the fray, many of the original influencers in both movements are seeing less diversity and representation. For a long time, cannabis was exclusively associated with minority groups, but today’s organizations looking for legalization are less diverse, with fewer women and people of color.

Cannabis legalization is gaining steam with convenient accessibility through cannabis delivery systems and storefronts – making cannabis and accessories easier to purchase than ever before. But because of the decrease in diversity, it seems like LGBTQ+ rights are falling behind, especially in areas related to transgender rights. Many cannabis executives and LGBTQ+ CEOs, organizers, and operators want to see an increase in diversity and additional collaboration between the two movements as they start drifting apart.

The Moral of the Story

Essentially, these groups are stronger together. With more crossover between LGBTQ+ and cannabis operators, each group lends the other more resources, credibility, and reach. If they continue to separate, both movements lose.

If you want to influence either movement, why not join both? You’ll find like-minded people who want more freedom for all – pushing the boundaries of self-expression, healthcare, and more.