Medical Cannabis Movement Becoming Less Gay

Categories: LGBT, Marijuana
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Chris Roberts
Hot. But gay unfriendly?
Like Sarah Palin recounting the tale of Paul Revere's ride to warn the British (of their own impending arrival), we Americans often have a fuzzy grasp of our history. This extends to the medical cannabis movement, which was birthed in San Francisco in the 1980s out of the AIDS epidemic. Gay men dying of AIDS during the darkest years of the Ronald Reagan era of ignorance found solace -- and in some cases healing -- from the cannabis plant.

In other words, without the LGBT movement -- and specifically, the AIDS epidemic -- there would be no medical cannabis movement.
This is easy to forget at some marijuana-themed events and expos around the Bay Area, which now feature scantily clad women pushing delivery services and young urban tattooed gentleman pushing pipes. That's not exactly gaycentric -- and in fact, it's downright "homophobic," according to some.

"Those little hookers? And the skateboard thugs, and the womanizing?" says Randy Silva, a PhD student in clinical psychology who's been a medical cannabis patient since he contracted HIV in 2002 (and, it should be noted, a close friend of your correspondent who's accompanied us to several medical cannabis-themed events over the past year).

"It's not a gay-friendly atmosphere in any way," Silva added. "Nobody even seems to know that it's because of AIDS that pot is legal in the first place. It's a big pet peeve of mine."

Silva's theory may hold water: There are very few storefront dispensaries we can name that fly the LGBT rainbow flag outside of their establishments, and these days, there is one dispensary in the entire Castro. Then there was the odd timing of the High Times Medical Cannabis Cup this past weekend which coincided with San Francisco's Pride celebration.

But some LGBT medical cannabis activists we talked to think the movement is just more diversified than anything else. As one activist told us: "Thugs get AIDS, too."

The story goes that Castro District activist and pot dealer Dennis Peron co-authored Proposition 215 in part as a tribute to his deceased lover, who died from AIDS in the earliy 1990s. Consider this: Every legal pot smoker has a dead gay man to thank for the legal plants in his or her closet, but that doesn't mean the movement is necessarily gay-friendly -- or gay-unfriendly, for that matter, says David Goldman, facilitator of the San Francisco chapter of Americans for Safe Access.

Goldman was a teacher for more than 30 years -- he taught Lieutenant Governor Gavin Newsom mathematics at Redwood High in Marin County -- and was also a gay rights activist in the 1970s, shortly after moving to the Castro, where he has lived since with his husband of 30 years.

"Gay awareness rings a positive bell for me, but not seeing it isn't necessarily going to ring a negative bell for me," says Goldman, who says that he attended both the Medical Cannabis Cup and the Pride celebrations over the weekend.

"I think the medical cannabis movement is very diversified," he added. "When I go to these events I see all social classes -- I see old, I see young, I see white, I see black."

The fact that the Cup was scheduled for the same weekend as Pride wasn't High Times' intention, according to West Coast editor David Bienenstock. "The timing was just a coincidence," Bienenstock told us in an e-mail. He pointed out that High Times took out a full page ad in the Pride Guide. The magazine also used the LGBT movement as a positive model in an activism seminar during the Cup, telling pot users to "come out of the cannabis closet."

It could be a coincidence that the cannabis-friendliest politicians in Sacramento both happen to be gay. State Sen. Mark Leno and Assemblyman Tom Ammiano are both representatives from San Francisco, where constituents would not be satisfied with anything less.

It stands to mention that there have been no recorded incidents of outright homophobia at any cannabis-related events -- such acts "would not be tolerated by any of us," Bienenstock said, and you can bet your bottom bong that any homophobia would have been excoriated in the press and led to the offender's ostracization.

It could just be that the movement's expanded to include a diverse cast of characters. And while it wouldn't be fair to expect every LGBT activist to be well-versed in black history, for example, it would be good to know exactly why we are in 2011 talking about medical marijuana in 16 states -- and counting.

As Erich Pearson, founder of Mission Street dispensary SPARC put it: "It's natural for the movement to grow beyond its LGBT roots, but it's still important for people to be mindful of that history."

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Elizabethfrantes
Elizabethfrantes

With a lot of those "club" ads, can't tell if they're a strip joint or a dispensary.  I find that very offensive, as a patient, and refuse to patronize any advertisers in those rags that have lots of thug looking dudes with "hot babes" with oversized bongs.  Feh.  Pot, like prescription drugs of all kinds shouldn't be advertised.

Jt
Jt

And if it wasn't for Hitler torturing Jews we wouldn't have antibiotics, doesn't mean you need to wear a yarmulke or arm band every time you get a shot of penicillin.  I support both medical marijuana, being my industry, and gay rights, being part of my sexuality, but I can't stand this article, It actually sounds like whinny hetrophobia, "oh the sluts! oh the tattoo guys!:  Members of the LGBT community should be the first to understand it takes all type. 

Andrew
Andrew

remember when AIDS wasn't a "gay disease"? 

I think its selfish of you to try to steer medical marijuana issues towards your lgbt cause. Goldman talking about all the diversity at the rallies? the white, the black, the young and the old? I bet not a single one of that diverse crowd cares about your sexual orientation. I think attention seeking often goes hand in hand with homosexuality and once again here's an article lamenting the lack of divas pushing their sexuality on you when all you came for was a little MMJ discussion. Sorry to sound homophobic, because I'm not, but i equate this to african americans demanding "reparations" or other nonsensical "look at me" behavior.

maybe i can sum it up in one eloquent sentence.. "I don't care where you put your penis, and whether or not you are high when you do it."

Scottie Sharpe
Scottie Sharpe

You guys should be concerned about me too.  I'll never get the two minutes back I wasted reading that article.

Chris Roberts
Chris Roberts

So sorry to distract you from saving the world! Have a lovely weekend.

Chris

ridge
ridge

please name the significant gay people who have gotten MMJ laws passed. i'm not saying they don't exist, but without naming any actual significant people or events, this article is pointless.

Elizabethfrantes
Elizabethfrantes

If you don't know why medical pot got here, you really are a homophobic putz . .. and more ignorant than a Fundamentalist!

DD
DD

@ridge As stated in this article, Dennis Peron played a major role in both writing and getting Prop 215 passed in California. He also cofounded The Cannabis Buyers Club, which was the first public medicinal cannabis dispensary. He is one of the major activists of the movement. He is also openly gay. 

david669
david669

How is being homosexual relevant to medical marijuana?   I will have you know that Mr. Politician whatever likes apples and was a founder of medical marijuana.

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