June is LGBTQ+ Month—established in homage to the Manhattan-based "Stonewall Riots" in 1969. Fifty years later, it's grown to address the many concerns facing LGBTQ+ communities, including safety, housing and employment discrimination, and a multitude of other matters that our current dystopian fever-dream administration seems to be adding to on the regular.
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Cannabis has a long relationship with the LGBTQ+ community, and cannabis-loving heteronormative cis-gender white dudes such as me owe a tremendous debt to the queer community. So, let's explore some of the connections, and ways your canna-dollar can support LGBTQ+ business owners.
It's not an overreach to say that without the LGBTQ+ community, we wouldn't have medical cannabis programs, or regulated Adult Use rec programs. The nation's first medical cannabis dispensary came about because of the work of a gay man, Dennis Peron, who opened that dispensary in San Francisco in 1991. He did so after losing his partner to AIDS and seeing the benefits and relief cannabis provided. He also worked with another gay man, City Commissioner Harvey Milk, to help pass Proposition W, which decriminalized up to 1 ounce of cannabis in San Francisco. He also worked on Prop 215, which established the nation's first statewide medical cannabis program.
Cannabis remains an important matter for the LGBTQ+ community. The president of the L.A. Black Gay Pride Association, Paul Scott, said in an article in the Washington Blade, "It's still an LGBT issue because it's still not accessible to everybody, everywhere. HIV/AIDS is still high in black populations in the South. And they can't get pot. They still have to break laws."
Yet now that there's a growing market for cannabis as a legal commodity in states with Adult Use programs, the industry isn't making the LGBTQ+ community a high priority. Which is puzzling, as a 2016 study of LGBTQ purchasing power in the U.S estimates the community having a combined purchasing power of $965 billion. But as Seattle-based cannabis branding agency CEO Jared Mirsky told Leafly earlier this year, in the 10 years they've been in business, "his clients have yet to request any LGBTQ-specific projects."
This isn't to say that some cannabis companies aren't doing that during Pride month. Many other companies affix a rainbow flag to their products as a way of showing support. In a study published by Grindr's former digital magazine, Into, the number of respondents saying they felt "very positive" about LGBTQ-themed branding jumped from 15.6 percent to over 40 percent when the branding occurred year-round, and not just for Pride. The community exists outside of just the month of June.
One of the best ways to support the LGBTQ community is by seeking out companies owned and operated by members of that community. Oregon has numerous brands. Topical company Empower is owned by a queer woman, as is Peak Extracts, owned by two queer women, producing edibles, vape cartridges and topicals. The Green Box curated cannabis collection delivery service is owned by Adrian Wayman, a gay man of color. The Cannabis Science Conference, which Portland hosts annually, has a gay man as founder and CEO. In 2018, PAX and Oregrown supported several LGBTQ non-profits with their limited edition "Rainbow Craze" pod and "Everybody is free to love" etched Pax Eras.
Peak Extracts CEO Katie Stem told Weedmaps, "I've found that the queer-owned companies (both mine and those of my friends) gear their marketing towards the universal, accessible demographic. The more queer, trans, and female people we have working in this space, the less the industry will fall prey to the degrading advertising tactics of the alcohol and tobacco industries."