Happy PRIDE Month!

HAPPY PRIDE MONTH! Today and every day throughout the year, we are all about celebrating authentic love and self-expression.

The history of Pride and cannabis legalziation are intimately connected. We recognize that our ability to freely enjoy legal cannabis today is due in significant part to the tireless and dedicated efforts of the LGBTQ community, allies, and advocates.

The Origins of Pride Month

Pride started as a riot – particularly the Stonewall Riots which was a catalyst leading to what we now know as Pride month. Police brutality against the LGBTQ community was rampant in the 1960’s. In June of 1969, police raided the Stonewall Inn, an LGBTQ+ friendly bar in Greenwich Village. Police arrested patrons and attendees resulting in a growing crowd that protested outside the bar for 6 days. One year later, a group of supporters marched in what would be the first Pride march from the Stonewall Inn to Central Park chanting, “say it loud, gay is proud!”


HIV/AIDS History

The efforts of the cannabis and LGBTQ+ communities came together in force as the HIV/AIDS epidemic began in the United States. HIV/AIDS first came to the public’s attention in the US in the 1980’s and early 1990’s. It is believed to have been first transmitted to humans in the 1920’s in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Over the next few decades the virus was spread through transportation routes and the sex trade. HIV spread from Africa to Haiti and the Caribbean in the 1960’s and eventually to New York City and San Francisco in the 1970’s.

Starting in 1981, various reports and articles began to surface covering this new unknown immune disorder that appeared to affect primarily homosexual men. Unfortunately, this only heightened the stigma against homosexuality. AIDS was first named and recognized in 1982. In 1984, the cause of AIDS – HIV – was identified and the first blood test was authorized by the FDA.  Head here for a deeper history of HIV/AIDS in the U.S. or here for a full timeline.

There is currently no cure for HIV. However, treatment and medical options have significantly improved in the last decade and, if treated early, many folks who have HIV are able to live long and healthy lives. Today, more than 70 million people worldwide have been infected with HIV/AIDS. The Prime Leaf is proud to support the Southern Arizona AIDS Foundation. Head here to learn more! 

Cannabis Advocacy in the LGBTQ+ Community

Advocacy for cannabis use as a medicine for HIV/AIDS patients gained significant traction as the epidemic swept across the United States in the 1980’s. Some of the earliest victories for cannabis use were led by LGBTQ community activists in an effort to provide support, comfort and healing for those who were suffering from AIDS. 

The first years of the epidemic coincided with the Reagan Administration that was already working to defund domestic spending and staunchly opposed homosexuality. Because gay men were the primary group impacted by HIV/AIDS, neither the government nor the private sector made a concerted effort to invest in research to find any sort of cure, much less treatment to make the lives of those infected with HIV any more comfortable. Due to this lack of care and limited treatment options that often made the symptoms of AIDS worse, many patients turned to cannabis as a way to soothe pain, manage nausea, increase appetite and simply relax.

However, the active criminalization of cannabis made it extremely difficult for patients to utilize cannabis as medicinal treatment. Additionally, LGBTQ communities, and communities of color – communities who are most actively discriminated against – were some of the most outspoken proponents of cannabis use for AIDS patients. Despite the many barriers in place, these communities fought for medicinal cannabis research and compassionate medical cannabis use.


California Legalization

In the wake of the devastating impacts of the HIV/AIDS epidemic, Dennis Peron, a prominent voice in both the LGBTQ+ and cannabis communities, wrote Proposition 215 in 1996. This bill proposed the legalization of cannabis for medicinal use throughout all of California. 

After establishing support for legalization in San Francisco the fight for statewide legalization followed. These efforts were met by countless vetoes from state and federal politicians. Peron and his supporters turned their attention to the public and formed the Californians for Compassionate Use PAC— an organization that included many members of the LGBTQ community. More than 400,000 signatures were gathered to get Proposition 215 on the ballot. Despite opposition from former presidents, local law enforcement, drug prevention organizations, and city and state officials, strong support came from medical professionals, cancer survivors, and a few supportive politicians.

Proposition 215 passed with 55.6% of the vote opening the door for other states to follow and legalize medical marijuana. 

We recognize that the road to legal medical marijuana began in large part with LGBTQ+ community – and without these efforts, our ability to legally and fully enjoy this medicinal plant might not otherwise exist.


Voices of the Community

The LGBTQ+ and cannabis advocacy communities merged through figures like Dennis Peron and Mary Jane Rathburn, also known as Brownie Mary. 

Mary Jane Rathburn

Brownie Mary was a beloved figure, fierce advocate and ally of the LGBTQ community. Brownie Mary lobbied alongside Dennis Peron to pass San Fransisco Prop P and CA Prop 215.  She was a prominent figure in providing cannabis to AIDS patients throughout San Francisco and persisted through multiple arrests with making her special magic brownies to help ease the symptoms of those suffering from AIDS in San Francisco. Dennis Peron estimated that at one point, she was making up to 1600 brownies per month! When Brownie Mary was arrested for the production and distribution of these brownies, the story of a little old lady making pot brownies made headlines across the country and shed new light on the AIDS epidemic and the utilization of cannabis as a form of medicine.

Dennis Peron

Peron was an Air Force veteran who was an active advocate for both the LGBTQ+ and cannabis communities. Peron was an advocate for cannabis before the AIDS epidemic and he worked closely with Senator Harvey Milk in advocacy for their communities until Milk’s assassination in 1978. In the late 1980’s Peron’s partner was diagnosed with AIDS which ignited him further to advocate for the legalization of cannabis as a medicinal therapeutic option. Peron opened the first Cannabis Buyers Club in California in order to get cannabis to those who needed it the most. In 1996, Peron wrote Proposition 215 proposing the legalization of cannabis for medical use in the state of California – a bill that would go on to pass with 55.6% of the vote.

Moving Forward

Both the cannabis and LGBTQ communities have seen significant advancements in the last 30 years. At the same time, there is still a lot of work to be done to ensure that LGBTQ people, people of color, and other marginalized individuals have a voice within the industry. The cannabis community has an additional responsibility to recognize and advocate for righting the detrimental social wrongs that the criminalization of cannabis has caused. 

In this tenuous time, The Prime Leaf is and always will be a safe space of love and acceptance. We are proud to support the Southern Arizona Gender Alliance in their mission to uplift gender euphoria and TGNC + BIPOC artists and their vision to nurture Southern Arizona to be the most trans affirming region in the US by 2050. Sending love to our entire community!