It's unlikely we would have a legal cannabis industry in California (or anywhere) without the work of many trailblazing LGBTQ+ advocates. Cannabis has been used for social, religious, stress relief, and medicinal purposes for thousands of years and the plants were (and remain) a critical therapy for AIDS patients. Patient advocates in San Francisco took that message to the people and secured the passage of Prop 215, which legalized medicinal cannabis in California in 1996, and thus began the march towards nationwide legalization.
In honor of San Francisco's 50th Pride celebration, modern LGBTQ+ cannabis leaders were asked to share their most admired LGBTQ+ advocates and cultural leaders who paved the way for legal cannabis. These entrepreneurs, who are focused on retail, distribution, manufacturing, tourism, technology, and investment, are changing the dynamic of how consumers interact with cannabis and are evolving the discussion around who gets to be successful in this new industry.
Besides being founder of the California Cannabis Tourism Association, Applegarth is the founder of The Cannabis Trail, a nonprofit dedicated to preserving and celebrating cannabis history.
"I met Dennis Peron by way of Pebbles Trippet... [Dennis] Peron was regarded as the Father of Medical Cannabis. He was a Vietnam Vet, a gay man, and the primary author of the historic Proposition 215 Compassionate Use Act of California. He organized and led the cannabis legalization movement in legendary ways. He ran an underground cannabis empire that served the LGBTQ and hippie communities and was arrested over 20 times. Dennis was also a supporter and close friend of Harvey Milk. They both arrived in San Francisco in the early '70s, and both shared the unique ability to float between and unite the neighboring LGBTQ and hippie communities using pot and politics to amplify shared values.
Dennis and the story of his life intrigued me. In the years leading up to Peron's passing in 2018, I periodically spent afternoons with Dennis and his comrades at The Castro Castle. The Castro Castle was, for all intents and purposes, the commune-style think tank headquarters of the medical cannabis movement. I enjoyed the stories, and puzzling together the seasons of his life to better understand who he was and why. I'm a fan of Peron's bravery and compassion above all -- you need both--compassion to hold space as your core value, and bravery to amplify that." http://www.brianapplegarth.com
“I’m incredibly inspired by Mary Jane Rathbun, popularly known as Brownie Mary, an American medical cannabis rights activist whose focus was to support the LGBTQ community during the AIDS epidemic. As a hospital volunteer on San Francisco General Hospital’s AIDS ward, she saw first-hand the pain, suffering, and a lack of treatment options that advanced patients, mostly queer, were facing. She knew cannabis could help, and so she started baking her famous infused brownies and passing them out. They brought great relief to the patients, but once word got out she was arrested. News of her arrest increased local, national, and international media attention to the medical cannabis movement that helped push it forward. Her arrest also generated interest in the medical community and motivated researchers to propose one of the first clinical trials to study the effects of cannabinoids in HIV-infected adults.” https://www.getsava.com/
“Kathleen Hanna! The Riot Grrrl scene had a profound influence on me. Her innate inclusivity expressed through writing, art, advocacy and music continues to fuel the uprising cries of people today. She’s been an ultra-advocate of women (Girls to the Front!), LGBTQ+ rights & pro-accessibility to Cannabis to those most in need. She had a years-long battle with Lyme Disease, in which Cannabis played a part in her recovery.
Her punk rock attitude showed me that a woman who speaks her truth with intense conviction to the world yields results that benefit society at large. If you haven’t listened to Bikini Kill, Le Tigre and The Julie Ruin…Spotify that right now.” https://vertosa.com/
“Alice Toklas was an American-born member of the Parisian avant-garde of the early 20th century and the life-long partner of Gertrude Stein...Among Stein’s many great, in 1933 Stein wrote her most famous work, The Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas, where she narrated the feelings of her companion. Toklas was also a revered author in her own right and in 1954, she published The Alice B. Toklas Cookbook, a book that mixes reminiscences and recipes. Perhaps the most famous recipe references ingredients of fruit, nuts, spices, and "canibus sativa.” At such a difficult time in history to do so, Toklas put it all out there and shared her own passions freely. Since its inception just two years after Stonewall, San Francisco’s Alice B. Toklas LGBT Democratic Club has focused on impacting local politics on important issues affecting the LGBT community, and has always had a pro-cannabis legalization stance. I always look to the Alice Toklas Democratic Club as one of the crucial organizations to guide me towards key candidates and policies via the lens of both a gay and a pro-cannabis citizen.” https://big-rock.com/
“Laura Thomas has been a significant influence, having worked closely with me in the efforts to legitimize and legalize cannabis in City Hall. Laura is an LGBTQ advocate, an expert in harm reduction, needle exchange, and has a deep understanding of the ills of mass incarceration. I consider myself blessed to have worked with her. I look at Laura as the rare example of a person that dedicates her working hours marrying community and progressive politics in order to right the societal wrongs that marginalize so many.” https://sparc.co/
“Frida Kahlo is one of the most incredible humans to have ever lived. She was a queer, Latinx, radical artist who used cannabis to explore her creativity. In a time when women, Latinas, queer people, and pot smokers were judged and persecuted for simply being who they were, she was not shy to be politically active and outspoken. As a queer Latinx person, it's always resonated with me. She was unafraid to be herself, while still being honest about how much of a struggle it could be at times.
"I paint flowers so they will not die." -Frida Kahlo
I am certainly no painter, but I am committed to my craft and growing my cannabis business and those of other queer, Latinx, BIPOC, and women founders to make sure our legacies will not die.” https://www.linkedin.com/in/isamarieperez/
“Though his sexuality was more complex and should only be defined by himself, James Baldwin, was a LGBT advocate that has always had a significant influence on me. It was in my first year college English course where I read Giovanni’s Room, and was opened up to the frameworks and realities of the intersectionality between race, gender, sexuality, etc. This not only stirred my own exploration of sexuality and intersectionality, but also influenced the way in which I have led my life with respect to lifting the most disenfranchised people.
The cannabis industry has been built on the backs of black and brown people, too many of which are still incarcerated for cannabis related crimes. At Roshi our mission from day one has been to support the operators that have carried the industry thus far, by empowering them with the tools and technology they will need to expand operations, protect their consumers, brand integrity, and bottom line and most importantly compete in both the market today and the highly regulated market to come.” https://roshi.me/
“In the canon of queer history, it’s important to mention the activist work of Scott Imler. One of the co-authors of Proposition 215, also known as the Compassionate Use Act of 1996, Scott opened the first cannabis dispensary in Los Angeles, the LA Cannabis Resource Cooperative. At the time, he also joined the Crescent Heights United Methodist Church, and in 2005 became its pastor. The church became a sanctuary of support for those struggling with addiction, and was then home to Project Angel Food, which provided meals for AIDS patients and the EAGLES Program, the LA Unified School District’s alternative LGBT high school.” https://www.ladybudsmovie.com/