When it comes to shared history, the cannabis and LGBTQ communities have a great deal in common. Both those who identify as other than straight and those who use cannabis have had to face persecution simply for trying to live a normal life by expressing their sexual identities or medicating for pain. And both groups have been called deviant and demonized as evil without really having their causes understood. But now, in 2016, all that is changing. Gay marriage is now legal nationwide, and a great deal of states are rapidly moving towards, or have already accepted, recreational or medical cannabis as admissible under state law.
So, it comes as no surprise that these two cultures are supporting each other and using their mutual success to bring each other up. After all, it is now more socially acceptable to be “out” as both a gay or transgender individual and as a cannabis user or medical patient. There are many people in the industry who are seeing these connections, and who are using this mutual uprising as a way to bring more light and success to both communities.
“I think that the two communities have a lot of similarities in the sense that your regular cannabis user and someone of the LGBTQ community knows what it is to have to hide who they are and until recently both communities have had to kind of be under the radar and had to operate discretely,” Kasey Ferlic, owner of the cannabis business digital craft agency Outlaw International, and out and queer member of the LGBTQ community in Denver, told CULTURE. “I think that changed so there are a lot of LGBTQ people in the cannabis industry, even though there are no officially connected groups that I know of. Because they are so similar they have a lot of things in common and I feel there are a lot of ways we can be advocates for each other and benefit each other in getting the rights that we deserve as U.S. citizens. But in the same sense there are some differences, like in consuming cannabis you wouldn’t come across hatred or violence, but being of the LGBTQ community you wouldn’t face jail time, at least not in the U.S. Still, I think the two communities really should stay connected in order to benefit each other.”
In addition to LGBTQ individuals also being a part of the cannabis community, members of the cannabis industry have made it a point to give back to the cities they are part of as a way to dispel negative stereotypes, and this includes working with the queer community. “Good Chemistry has sponsored the Aids Walk every year since opening, and for the past four years we have supported the One Colorado Ally Awards,” Matthew Huron, founder and CEO of Good Chemistry dispensary in Denver, told CULTURE. “Good Chemistry has also sponsored the Denver Gay Pride Parade, and for the past two years we have been the exclusive sponsor of the Pink Party at Tracks during Gay Pride Weekend.”
Huron’s involvement with the LGBTQ community goes beyond a simple sense of social justice and a desire for change. His work and activism stem from a personal connection. “My involvement with the LGBTQ community and cannabis started when I saw firsthand the benefits that people can experience from cannabis, when my father and his partner—along with many of their friends— used the plant to treat severe symptoms of HIV,” he told us. “Because cannabis became an excellent alternative treatment and offered relief for HIV patients, my father and I set up a small, non-profit medical marijuana co-op in San Francisco that served AIDS patients and the assisted living and hospice facilities that treated them.”
“When I moved the business to Colorado, I wanted to keep the spirit of my father alive, so we started the Good Chemistry Compassion Program, where we provide free and low-cost medicine to very sick and low-income patients,” he added. “It is very important to me to support the LGBTQ community and show that they have an ally in Good Chemistry. By sponsoring community events such as the AIDS Walk and the Ally Awards, we are able to engage with the community and support important initiatives.”
“Because cannabis is such an open minded and accepting environment, LGBTQ people aren’t so scared to hide their identity because of the nature of the cannabis industry,” Ferlic explained. “So the open mindedness could be the crossover, because I know in all the companies I have worked with, there have been a handful of LGBTQ people in each community and they’ve been really open about that. In the past couple of years with gay marriage and cannabis coming out I feel I can be open and honest from the get-go. I’m a cannabis user and I’m proud of it and I’m also LGBTQ and I’m proud of it, and I don’t have any problems letting people know about that. Two years ago I hid both of those things, especially in the workplace.”
“I am proud to be a part of the advances that have been made to legalize marijuana and to bear witness to the progress that has been made by the LGBTQ community,” added Huron.