When we caught up with singer, songwriter and producer Nakkia Gold, she was chilling in her kitchen, smoking a joint and happy to talk about her newly exploding musical career.
From uplifting women and weed to rising in the star-studded ranks (all while staying focused on paying it forward to youth), we talked all things positive with Nakkia Gold. Freshly riding the waves of success from her recent release of “Justice (Get Up, Stand Up)” featuring the powerhouses of Wiz Khalifa and Bob Marley and The Wailers, here’s the conversation.
How did you first get started making music?
I fell in love with music at a very young age. I was always dancing, and when I danced, I would be singing the song instead of doing the dance, or remembering the dance because of the specific words in the songs. And I was always in church. Then, when I figured out I was able to create my own world and write my own songs, and say and do what I want, it made me fall even more deeply in love.
Who helped you along the way, and what all went into your journey of getting into music?
I grew up in South Central Los Angeles, so I got to see a lot of hip-hop and street artists really make it from nothing, just by telling their story. When I found out I was able to create my own world within music and write my story, like Nipsey Hussle, Kendrick Lamar, Snoop Dogg, like everybody from here, I wanted to do that for my community.
I kind of want to do that for my generation as well. There’s an opening for lesbian, gay women, and I want to be the face of LA and show that we can do it, too. So, just getting that confidence and assurance, and coming from where I’ve come from gave me more of a drive to do more for not just myself, but for my community.
How did you get into cannabis activism, and how does it show up in your music?
I dealt with social anxiety for a long time as a kid, so when I was introduced to cannabis, I was able to let everything go, no more stress. Now I don’t have to take medication for pain. When I feel sore after I go to the gym, I use CBD as well, so not just the THC part of it. I use the medicinal part. I use CBD bath bombs and body oil.
Also, cannabis really helps me create well; it opens up my creative space and my mind so that when I’m writing, I’m not concentrating on stress or what I’m going through in my personal life. I’m able to let it all go and really be myself and speak my truth without worrying about anything.
In terms of legalization, what changes do you hope to see, especially when it comes to people of color being incarcerated for cannabis?
I’d like people to be able to see the medical benefits, and finally just have legal use because it’s not hurting anybody. I feel like if the world would just hit a blunt sometimes, or a bowl, everybody would be cool. No one would be stressed out.
I think elderly people should be able to have a little weed sometimes if they want to. It’s not like we have deaths or people doing crazy stuff on it. I feel like everybody needs to be able to smoke up without consequences.
Do you find yourself working that, and other cannabis themes, into your music?
Oh yes, I definitely incorporate those themes. I mean, I did a song with Bob Marley and Wiz Khalifa, so how could I not? I think it’s well-branded that everywhere I go, I have a nice bag with me.
As a queer person in hip-hop, do you feel there is acceptance, or is there still a lot of work the community needs to do?
I feel like we have overcome a lot of hurdles, and I feel like there’s still a lot of teaching and a lot of learning out there for people to do as far as the people who don’t accept it. They have to understand, love is love, and we can’t fight who we love; we just can’t.
Where do you hope to see your career in five to 10 years?
In the stars, amongst those who are excelling. I want to drop a few albums; I want to go on tour. I want to do a lot of collaboration. I want to see more of people building their communities, and I want to see change in where I live. I want to help the homeless and make different foundations and organizations to help people. I want to create spaces for kids who don’t have money and benefits.
Can you tell us more about what inspired you to create those spaces for youth?
I was a teacher for a while, so I’ve seen the effect that music can have on kids in education, so that’s really, really deep in me. I’m going to create a foundation that’s like an after school program, but not one where you just give a kid a ball and let them go in the yard.
I want to incorporate and give them a trade, teach them something that they can do afterwords and carry on with their life so they can have skills that can make them money later on, whether it be music, dance, acting, plumbing or construction. I can give them a couple hours after school, and instead of sitting there just bouncing a ball, let’s do something physical.
Do you have anything in the works in terms of touring plans?
Nothing official yet, but when I tour, I want to head straight for Atlanta. I want to go to Atlanta first, and then back home and just go crazy all over again.
So you’d love to just play in those cities where hip-hop shows really pop off so that it’s a crazy time?
Despite the many historical and political similarities, there is very little discussion regarding the ties between the LGBTQ movement and the fight to legalize cannabis in the US. Many of the most prominent, gay-rights activists also played pivotal roles in raising awareness about cannabis-related issues.
“The genesis of the cannabis movement, gay people served at the heart of it,” said Michael Koehn, 75, of San Francisco, an activist who has been heavily active in both LGBTQ and cannabis issues since he was diagnosed with HIV in 1985. However, while both battles have drawn many parallels over the years, it seems the burgeoning cannabis market is becoming increasingly mainstream and turning its back on the LGBTQ community.
It’s Pride Month and in our opinion, the best way to celebrate is by raising awareness about past and current issues, as well as shed light on the many contributions of the LGBTQ community to the cannabis industry. To learn more about activism and other cannabis-related issues, and for exclusive deals on flowers and other products, make sure to subscribe to the CBD Flowers Weekly Newsletter
Golden State Beginnings
The connection between the LGBTQ movement and cannabis legalization goes back decades, and, like many other major industry developments, has roots in California. California was the first state to legalize medical marijuana 25 years ago, but according to David Goldman (Koehn’s husband), “If it hadn’t been for activity among gay folks, we wouldn’t have had medical cannabis on the ballot in 1996.”
Key activists in the gay community were campaigning for cannabis rights since the late 1970s, when positive HIV cases began to rise but treatment and research efforts were at a standstill. When AIDS starting spreading like wildfire through the gay community, suffering patients demanded medical cannabis to treat the anorexia, wasting syndrome, and other symptoms associated with both the disease and the few prescription medications that existed at the time.
In response, the federal government’s Public Health Service quickly closed the one legal source of supply in the country, which was coming from University of Mississippi School of Pharmacy, the only program to be awarded a government grant to grow and study medical cannabis. This disgusting display of ignorance and lack of compassion sparked a grassroots movement that united two “countercultures” and would eventually become a widespread political movement around the world.
LGBTQ activists had a huge hand in helping pass a number of major pieces of cannabis legislation in the state, starting in 1978 when San Francisco Supervisor Harvey Milk, the first openly gay man elected to public office in the entire nation, became a major political supporter of Proposition W. It was the first proposition that essentially decriminalized the possession, cultivation, and distribution of marijuana within city limits, and the first bill of its kind to pass in the US, although it was eventually overturned.
Even Proposition 215, the first bill ever to fully legalize medical marijuana use, was co-written by Dennis Peron, a gay man, Vietnam Air Force veteran, and well-known pot dealer who lost his significant other to AIDS. After getting arrested in his home for providing marijuana to his dying lover, Peron put all his efforts into helping pass Proposition P in 1991, which allowed San Francisco-area doctors to ‘recommend’ medical marijuana to patients as they saw fit.
Then in 1994 – Peron along activist Mary Jane Rathbun (Brownie Mary), and other industry advocates – opened the San Francisco Cannabis Buyers Club, which was essentially the first medical cannabis dispensary in the state. A couple years later, Peron was co-writing Proposition 215, which passed with a 55.6% vote and officially legalized medical cannabis use in the Golden State.
A Nationwide Movement
“Cannabis and queers have always shared in the fight for respect and legal recognition, which inherently links the two communities,” explains Sophie St. Thomas, a queer sex and cannabis writer, and author of Finding Your Higher Self: Your Guide to Cannabis for Self Care.
The fight for both LGBTQ rights and cannabis legalization continues to this day, now spanning across multiple industries, political parties, and countries. The movement is no longer alternative or unconventional, and advocates can be found in many different fields and walks of life. They include A-list celebrities, major politicians, healthcare workers, media personalities, big-time investors and entrepreneurs, and more.
A perfect example is Colorado Governor Jared Polis, the country’s first openly gay Governor and a fervent defender of cannabis reform. He also supports the use of therapeutic psychedelics and is expected to soon sign a bill that would decriminalize psilocybin in the state of Colorado.
“I personally know hundreds of LGBTQ industry members, from CEOs to budtenders, who believe in the plant as much as they believe in who they are,” stated Kyle Porter, president of CMW Media and a member of the community himself. “Without exact statistics, I can confidently say that LGBTQ people have been an integral part of this cause, whether publicly or not, and continue to be leaders and advocates striving for destigmatization and legalization.”
Two other notable names include writer and media personality Dan Savage, a marijuana-themed movie festival called SPLIFF, that bills itself as “a film festival made by the stoned for the stoned.” Fans of RuPaul’s Drag Race will know the name Laganja Estranja, who is known for her intense choreography and, of course, her unwavering love for cannabis. Aside from her performances, Laganja’s social media is largely focused on cannabis awareness, education, and activism.
“It’s still an LGBT issue because it’s still not accessible to everybody everywhere,” Paul Scott, a longtime marijuana and HIV activist and current president of the Los Angeles Black Gay Pride Association. “HIV/AIDS is still high in black populations in the South. And they can’t get pot. They still have to break laws. So absolutely it is.”
Misconceptions, Underrepresentation, and Exclusion
While cannabis and LGBTQ issues are both very politicized and interconnected in many ways, it seems the cannabis community is turning its back on LGBTQ business owners and consumers. According to a compelling article by Leafly’s Rob Csernyik, “as cannabis companies find their footings in a now-legitimate industry, in a sector still dominated by stereotypes and stoner tropes, the industry often overlooks LGBTQ representation.”
This sentiment is echoed by numerous other cannabis industry writers, including Tessa Love who made a similar point in a 2017 article for Slate. “Homophobia [in the cannabis industry] is even more of a slap in the face to the gay community,” Tessa comments. “Given the fact that the legalization movement rode on the coattails of the gay rights movement.”
Kyle Porter also made some interesting comments on this topic, stating that LGBTQ still face a lot of “resistance” in today’s cannabis industry. “The cannabis industry is currently white male-driven with many big corporate players entering the space daily. As with any major corporate environment, it can be difficult for gay leaders to be themselves while still earning the respect of potential clients and investors, who are predominantly straight. While this should not deter LGBTQ individuals from entering the space, it presents an extra obstacle to overcome in establishing one’s self or business in the industry.”
Amber Senter, co-founder and executive director of Supernova Women, a group of women of color in the cannabis industry, and who is queer herself, says she hopes that legalization will increase LGBTQ cannabusiness ownership, but worries that may not be a realistic outlook. “When cannabis started out, it was for people who weren’t seen as normal in society,” Senter, who’s queer, says. “So in the beginning, you had a lot of obviously LGBT people. Now with everything moving toward being corporate, they’re pushing everyone who was in it before out. There will be more opportunities overall, so there will be more opportunities for LGBT people. But at the same time, the culture is not the same.”
Others are more optimistic, and believe that the cannabis industry is progressive and welcoming to all, especially compared to other industries. Josh Crossney, CEO of the Cannabis Science Conference, said in a Forbes interview that, “The cannabis industry is the most accepting and inclusive professional community that I have ever been a part of.” At the same time, he made sure to emphasize that inclusion and representation are NOT the same thing.
“I do feel that the LGBTQ community is underrepresented,” he added. “There is an opportunity for further inclusion and representation in the cannabis space.” This seems like a fair and accurate way to sum it up. We’re on the right track, but we could do better.
We Need More Than Just “Rainbow Shit”
According to the 2015 data from the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, sexual minority adults are more than twice as likely to use cannabis products when compared to heterosexual adults. Nearly 31% of LGBTQ adults reported using cannabis regularly, compared to roughly 13% of heterosexual adults. Although initially the reason for the medical marijuana push was AIDS-related, today, it has to do with mental health.
Rates of depression, anxiety, PTSD, eating disorders, suicidal thoughts, homelessness, addiction, insomnia, and other stress-related disorders are much higher among the LGBTQ community, due to marginalization, oppression, harassment, and assault.
Almost a third of sexual minority adults (30.7%) reported using marijuana in the past year, compared to 12.9 percent of heterosexual adults. These higher rates of marijuana use coexist with the higher rates of depression, anxiety, PTSD, eating disorders, suicidal thoughts, homelessness, and physical pain that LGBTQ people experience due to marginalization and oppression.
However, despite these statistics, LGBTQ consumers are feeling equally ignored by cannabis companies. A survey conducted by Grindr’s and Brand Innovators, a market-research firm, asked 4,100 participants how they viewed companies that advertise to the LGBTQ community. In total, only 15.6% reported feeling “very positively” towards companies that do these ad campaigns ONLY during pride month.
For cannabis companies that advertise “regularly or continually” to the LGBTQ communities, that support rose to 40 percent. As legalization numbers continue to rise, the LGBTQ niche should garner even more advertiser attention. One obvious issue here, is there will inevitably be many companies that don’t actually support gay rights and will just slap a rainbow on some of their products trying to cash in on the movement.
“It’s one thing to co-opt rainbows,” says Daniel Saynt, founder of theNSFW Creative, a media brand that specializes in cannabis and sexual-wellness content. “It’s another to put your money where it matters. If a brand is giving back to a cause, it makes for a more authentic collaboration and helps further LGBTQ support outside of Pride month.”
St. Thomas agrees, noting that brands should “work directly with the queer community all year round, give to LGBTQ+ charities, and not just sell rainbow shit.”
Although it remains infrequently discussed, the connection between LGBTQ rights and cannabis reform is undeniable. “Cannabis wouldn’t be legal without the work of queer AIDS activists, so we’re going to have to see more than rainbows.” Sophie St. Thomas says. “Besides, many queer folks are too stylish to want to walk around with a rainbow vape pen anyways, it’s hard to match with an outfit.”
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It’s that time of year again, when we take some time out to celebrate who we are sexually, without embarrassment or shame. And that goes for everyone, gay, straight, or anything in between. Having pride in who we are is a right, not a privilege, regardless of who is next to us in bed. So, this year, let’s take a look at some of the cooler cannabis products out there to celebrate pride month.
What’re the best cannabis products to celebrate Pride month? Any of them! But if you’re specifically looking for a way to feel good without the anxiety of standard THC, then your best Pride purchase might be delta-8 THC. This alternate form of THC leaves users with a clear-headed high and more energy – which is perfect for hitting a parade. Check out our selection of Delta-8 THC deals, and celebrate pride d8 style.
Quite obviously, there was not always a gay pride month to celebrate. The birth of gay pride actually started in a much more violent and angry way than current celebrations would indicate, but certainly not without reason or merit. It should be remembered that America in the 1950’s and 1960’s wasn’t the most gay-friendly of places, and this extended from social issues to legal issues. The idea of standing up for gay rights, started in a small way in the mid-60’s when two different pro-gay rights organizations, Daughters of Bilitis, and Mattachine Society, started demonstrations, including ‘annual reminders’.
These ‘annual reminders’ were picket events held between 1965-1969, which took place in Philadelphia at Independence Hall on July 4th. These demonstrations acted as a reminder of the unfair treatment towards gay people in terms of civil rights protections. In 1968, Frank Kamey, a participant in the annual reminders, and a leader in the gay civil rights movement, started the slogan ‘Gay is Good’ to promote the idea of self-love and self-acceptance for the gay community, and tolerance beyond it. This motto was taken directly from a similar motto and movement meant to inspire equal rights: ‘Black is Beautiful’.
On June 28, 1969, a riot broke out in New York after police raided a gay bar called the Stonewall Inn. This became known later as the Stonewall Riots, or Christopher Street Liberation Day. Rioting and protests went on for a few nights, and all of this led to the idea of promoting gay rights on a larger, more organized, scale. The first idea of a march came in 1969 by four activists who set their sights on New York City. In order to do this, many activist organizations had to be involved, which at that time took a bit more prodding to accomplish. Regardless, it was done, and the 2nd pride parade was held on the anniversary of the Stonewall Riots, in New York City.
It wasn’t the 1st, because Chicago beat out NYC, holding its first – and the country’s first – pride parade on June 27th, 1970, through the Chicago Gay Liberation Front. More cities joined in the following year, including international cities like London, Paris, and Berlin. Quite obviously, since that time, celebrating gay pride has become an international event, with tons of celebrations, parades, and parties included. In America, the rights finally came through in 2015 when the US Supreme Court legalized gay marriage in all 50 states.
For anyone paying attention, this only accounted for marriage though. In reality, it is now several years after that legalization went through, and there are still currently no protections in the US against discrimination based on sexual orientation. In 2020, the US Supreme Court did make a ruling that sexual orientation and gender identity do qualify as ‘sex’, and therefore are covered in terms of employment discrimination via the 1964 Civil Rights Act. The more comprehensive Equality Act is still sitting in congress. This bill would amend the 1964 Civil Rights Act to entirely prohibit discrimination based on sex, sexual orientation, and gender identity when it comes to the following issues: education, housing, employment, public accommodations, jury duty, federal programs, and credit.
To give an idea of how far back the US is in terms of civil rights, this new addendum would also increase civil rights protections for the black community in the form of prohibiting discrimination in more public places, including transportation, goods and services, and exhibitions. This outright states that the US government is already aware of the still horribly unequal treatment given to the black community in 2021! And this bill has been sitting in congress for two years now with no movement!!!
Much like gay pride, cannabis has a celebration day too, and in a weird way, they kind of go together. We celebrate cannabis on 4/20, which dates back to high school kids getting high, though there are different stories to denote the beginning of the story. Much like with gay pride, these celebrations were smaller, quieter, and more local in the beginning, erupting out into global days of celebration in more recent years. Depending on where you are in the world, there are tons of celebrations – from parades to events to massive sales for products.
Why are the two related? As cannabis gets more of a greenlight, and as we become more aware of methods of oppression that have been used towards black and minority groups, the reality of the beginning of cannabis prohibition has been made more clear, and it’s not a pretty picture. The idea that the color of people’s skin, or country of origin, was used to denigrate and outlaw a useful medicine is unconscionable, and even more so is the idea that this went over with the American public.
It all can even be summed up by this statement made by John Ehrlichman in 1994. Ehrlichman served as the Assistant to the President for Domestic Affairs under former president Richard Nixon. His statement makes clear how the war on drugs was really being fought, and why anti-drug measures were really being pushed.
“The Nixon campaign in 1968, and the Nixon White House after that, had two enemies: the antiwar left and black people. You understand what I’m saying? We knew we couldn’t make it illegal to be either against the war or black, but by getting the public to associate the hippies with marijuana and blacks with heroin, and then criminalizing both heavily, we could disrupt those communities. We could arrest their leaders, raid their homes, break up their meetings, and vilify them night after night on the evening news. Did we know we were lying about the drugs? Of course we did.”
While the gay community wasn’t mentioned in this statement, what should be clear, is that minority groups were taking the hit for this. Drugs were literally illegalized on the backs of marginalized populations, like the black community, Mexicans, or those seeking to improve things like anti-war advocates. And, it was, in fact, the gay community that helped push cannabis legalization in California. As a result of the growing AIDS crises in the 1980’s and 1990’s, the need for medications like cannabis grew, and led to initiatives like Proposition P in San Francisco, which made a demand of the state to allow medical cannabis, (and which passed with 79% of the vote). Cannabis was outlawed based on marginalized communities, and brought back by them as well.
Best cannabis products to celebrate gay pride
In honor of gay pride this year, and the idea of abolishing any racist or hate-fueled laws, let’s take a look at some of the happier ways of celebrating this very important month.
The company ReCreate is pulling out all the stops for Pride Month. The company put out a line of products specifically to celebrate Gay Pride. This includes Pride Gummies, a limited edition mix of fruit flavored gummies that come in packs of 10, with each package containing 100mg of CBD and 100mg of THC. All ingredients used are natural, vegan, and gluten-free, and ReCreate will donate $1 per purchase to One Colorado and Equality California, two LGBTQ activist groups.
ReCreate also has you covered for Pride oriented cannabis drinks with its Pride Beverage. This blueberry-mint-acai sparkling drink is offered for a limited time, and contains 2.5mg of CBD and 2.5mg of THC per serving. This drink works fast to uplift your spirits, and ReCreate will, again, give $1 of each purchase to One Colorado and Equality California. ReCreate was co-founded by Austin Stanley of Charlotte’s Web fame. These products are available in Colorado and California.
Pride doesn’t have to be celebrated directly with cannabis products. The new company Betoken, founded by female entrepreneur Liz Kirby, offers a range of high-quality CBD products to an adult-only clientele. This month, the company is selling customizable bracelets for Pride, complete with up to 10 letters to say whatever the buyer wants. These are fully personalized bracelets in terms of colors and words. The bracelets cost between $14-$16, with every cent going to support Equality Maine.
Another option is Bloom Farms Wellness, and its HIGHLIGHTER® Rainbow Pride Vape Pen Battery. This shiny, metallic, rainbow vape battery was originally produced for Pride in another year, but was so popular, it became a regular item. All throughout the month of June, Bloom Farms Wellness will donate two meals for every battery that is sold. This battery is consistent with most 510-thread cartridges, easy to use, and comes with a quick-use USB charger, with up to 300 puffs per charge. Each battery costs $20.
And then there’s Cann. Cann produces a line of social tonics with micro-dose amounts of cannabis for uplifting the spirit, without the hangover. These bubbly beverages come in flavors like Lemon Lavender, Blood Orange Cardamon, Ginger Lemongrass Hi-Boy, and Cranberry Sage, just to name a few. All beverages contain either 2mg of THC and 4mg of CBD, or 5mg of THC only. In honor of Gay Pride, Cann is offering The Pride Bundle, a limited-edition box of cannabis drink products with a markdown to $75. Each box contains products from Cann, as well as products from other gay-owned cannabis brands. The contents include:
“4 packs of Sonder Space Crystals, which crackle and pop on your tongue for a sparkly head high. Very gentle. 2 4pks of Drew Martin Pre-Roll Variety Pack, low-dose botanical blended pre-rolls. We love a low dose. 2 4pks of Cranberry Sage Cann, your summer go-to microdose bev. A light buzz to keep you cool.”
One of the best things about Pride today, is that it highlights how something like gay rights can go from a point of complete oppression, to near freedom (okay, that’s overly positive for the moment, but you know what I mean). Whether it’s Gay Pride month, Black History month, Women’s History Month, or any other time to celebrate the overall fight for justice of those who have been oppressed, the important thing is to do something to get involved, even if its just buying a product to help support a cause.
I hope you all will go out and take part somehow. Go to a parade, learn some history, give your friend who nervously came out a pat on the back, or simply buy some cannabis products to celebrate Gay Pride month. However you do it, just be proud!
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ReCreate is celebrating Pride Month this June through a special line of cannabis-infused gummies and beverages. One dollar from every product sold will be donated to One Colorado and Equality California, two nonprofit organizations dedicated to LGBTQ+ and civil rights advocacy.
The Stanley Brothers, most widely known for their pioneering CBD brand, Charlotte’s Web, launched ReCreate just last year. Through precise formulations and dosing, ReCreate’s products deliver consistent and repeatable effects, so that consumers can easily incorporate them into their daily routine for improved wellness and an all-around healthier lifestyle. Their tinctures, gummies and edibles combine THC, full-spectrum CBD and functional botanicals for a chain reaction of wellness.
The Pride line includes two limited-edition products, currently available in Colorado and California: Mixed Fruit Gummies and a Blueberry Mint Acai Sparkling Elixir. The gummies combine 10mg of CBD and THC with Yerba Mate for an energizing way to celebrate Pride. The sparkling beverage contains 2.5mg of CBD and THC, with uplifting botanicals to keep you feeling awake and uplifted. Both products feature ReCreate’s new proprietary cannabis blend. This full-spectrum mixture uses cutting edge nanotechnology for faster absorption, providing one of the fastest, most consistent highs on the market.
Both the cannabis and LGBTQ+ communities have been fighting for legal recognition and respect for decades. With this in mind, ReCreate is also celebrating Pride Month by shining a light on some influential LGBTQ+ individuals who have helped drive the cannabis industry forward. Leaders like Harvey Milk and Dennis Peron are being highlighted on ReCreate’s website and social channels.
“Throughout this campaign, we’re excited to acknowledge the iconic LBGTQ+ leaders who played a critical role in advocating for the medical potential of cannabis,” Stanley said. “Without their efforts, there would be no progress in legalization today.”
Colorado’s leading advocacy organization, One Colorado, is dedicated to advancing equality for the LGBTQ+ Coloradans by lobbying the General Assembly, the executive branch and local governments on meaningful issues, like safe schools, transgender equality, and health and human services. The organization also places a large emphasis on public education.
Another one of ReCreate’s local partner nonprofits is Equality California, which is the largest statewide LGBTQ+ Civil Rights Advocacy organization in the country. The group strives to create a world that is healthy, just and fully equal for all LGBTQ+ people through political, legislative and judiciary reform.
“In our chaotic world, some of us can feel lost and unwell. As a gay man, I know many of our community members struggle with feeling centered, acknowledged and loved,” Stanley shared. “Throughout my wellness journey, cannabis has helped me feel like a better version of myself. That’s why I am proud ReCreate has partnered with Equality California and One Colorado to reimagine a more inclusive and well world for everyone.”
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Members of the cannabis industry often tout their field as one of the most inclusive. The legal cannabis market is, after all, being constructed and furnished right before our very eyes — why wouldn’t it be diverse and accepting and progressive?
After all, given the medical marijuana movements close ties to the AIDS crisis (shout out to medical marijuana pioneers Dennis Peron and Brownie Mary!). But unfortunately, when something like the promise of an industry free from the ills of discrimination and patriarchy sounds too good to be true, that’s usually because it is.
Sure, the latest data shows that the cannabis industry employs more self-identified women than tech or agriculture, but men still retain most of the power positions at these businesses, holding titles like CEO or director more often than their female counterparts. From a racial justice perspective, most locations where cannabis is legal in the U.S. have been slow to implement equity measures, which means the rich (statistically speaking, old straight white men) get richer and the communities of color most likely to have been affected by cannabis prohibition get pushed to the side. And from the broadest standpoint, there’s the sad fact that most people in the cannabis industry aren’t making much money anyway.
But even if the world of legal weed isn’t quite the progressive capitalist utopia it’s sometimes cracked up to be, we can still push for a better industry, and there are some very exciting people in the space right now working to do just that. Here are a few members of the LGBTQ community making big waves in the cannabis business — support them if you get a chance, because their success creates even more room for their contemporaries.
Joshua Crossney is the founder and CEO of nonprofit jCanna, as well as the man behind the Cannabis Science Conference, an annual event that pools together cannabis industry experts. Crossney has focused his career on promoting research and education, but has also been open about his sexuality and promoting inclusion in the world of cannabis.
“Although we talk about the inclusion in the industry, and it is very diverse, at the end of the day it is a predominantly white male-dominated industry,” Crossney said in an interview with High Times. “That is evolving and changing and we’re seeing a lot more involvement from different groups, but I think really embracing your true self and being who you are is really the best avenue to take with this.”
Nick Abell & Cameron Ray Rexroat
The entrepreneurs behind Just Another Jay, a cannabis lifestyle blog and marketing consulting business, are also partners who push for LGBTQ visibility in the cannabis industry and beyond.
“We were noticing we were only showcased in events such as Pride Month, but after that it was like we never existed,” Rexroat told Cannabis Now in a soon-to-be-published interview. “[Now], that is a huge driver in everything that we do. We need to break down not only the stigma, but also educate people about cannabis and highlight discrimination that’s going on within the industry.”
HollyWeed North Cannabis CEO Renee Gagnon has been outspoken about the importance of LGBTQ representation in the cannabis industry. Her bio notes that she is “both the first transgender publicly traded marijuana company CEO and the first female one.”
Gagnon says visibility is critical for marginalized groups, like members of the LGBTQ community, to get a fair shot at success in the realm of canna-business.
“Access to capital will always determine the racial and gender split at the top,” Gagnon told Leafly. “To be denied access to a fundamental thing like equality in the start of a new industry just pisses me off.”
Buck Angel & Leon Mostovoy
Buck Angel first gained prominence as an openly trans adult actor, and found himself draw to the cannabis business because of the plant’s close ties with LGBTQ history.
“The queer community, specifically gay men and the HIV/AIDS crisis, are why we even have legal cannabis today,” Angel told LGBTQ publication them. “Now, it’s going to become all white male corporate out there, and the queer community that’s been in on it forever and started this whole thing will be left out.”
Angel partnered with fellow activist and trans man Leon Mostovoy to create cannabis company Pride Wellness, which aims to “develop products focused on the medical ailments prevalent to people in the LGBT community,” according to its website.
TELL US, which cannabis businesses do you feel best about supporting?
The celebration and support of Pride holds a special place in the cannabis community. Due to the tireless efforts of HIV/AIDS activists who dedicated their lives advocating for the medical potential of cannabis, Proposition 215 was passed in 1996. Also known as the Compassionate Use Act, the California law was the first to permit the use of medical cannabis, making the LGBTQ community directly responsible for the legal weed we enjoy today.
Each year, Pride week sees cannabis brands partner with LGBTQ organizations, launching promotions such as limited-edition Pride products, charity initiatives or (digital) Pride events. All contribute a portion of proceeds to said organizations, or to the benefit of the the queer community.
While the weed industry continues to evolve from a legacy-market boys club to the fully inclusive space it will become, as of now, there are only a handful of LGBTQ owned-and-operated brands for consumers to support. This year, instead of spending money on products that only elevate your mind, elevate the community that made it legal to get elevated in the first place.
Here are the brands and products supporting LGBTQ organizations for Pride 2020.
Aster Farms x Coolhaus x Sweetflower
Mendocino-based flower brand Aster Farms teamed up with LGBTQ-founded SoCal ice cream brand Coolhaus and popular dispensary chain Sweet Flower [Melrose, Arts District, Studio City], to bring you two limited-edition treats sure to sweeten Los Angeles Pride Week: an Aster Farms Rainbow Chip pre-roll paired with Coolhaus’s “EnjoyMINT for All” frozen dessert pint.
For Sweet Flower customers, be one of the first 50 people to add the promo in your cart to receive a $5 Rainbow Chip pre-roll — a fruity, herbal hybrid of Sunset Sherbert and Mint Chocolate Chip — and a complimentary pint of EnjoyMint for All, a decadent dairy-free, non-GMO, plant protein peppermint base adorned with a rich trail of chocolate cookie crumbs and a gooey purple marshmallow swirl.
Since so many people are displaced due to current events, Aster Farms, Coolhaus and Sweet Flower will be providing a donation to the Los Angeles LGBT Center’s Homeless Youth Initiative. Each company will be matching the $5 consumer purchase with a $5 donation.
Leading edibles brand Kiva will be ringing in Pride 2020 with the re-release of their super popular Proud Camino gummies. Each tropical punch gummy features a mellow serving of 5 milligrams THC, perfect for a novice user or those simply trying to take the edge off spending the once-lavish weekend of Pride bored at home.
In addition, Kiva will be donating $15,000 to GLAAD for Pride month, as well as working with drag queen Jinkx Monsoon to put on a national Virtual Pride Parade on Saturday, June 13th through Instagram. Jinkx will be serving as the Grand Marshall, and with each person joining the virtual parade, Kiva will be donating $5 toward GLAAD.
For this installment of Lowell Farm Co.’s yearly Pride promotion, the leading cannabis brand has teamed up with two of their LGBTQ owned partner farms, Tuff-n-Tendergrass and Ventoso Farms, to bring you a very special surprise: the Pride 2020 Blend.
The Pride 2020 Blend is a standout sativa that combines two standout strains, Blue Hawaiian and Magic Melon. Bursting with citrus and fresh fruit, Blue Hawaiian offers an alert head high, while Magic Melon levels you out with its air of euphoria and whimsy.
If blends aren’t your jam, Lowell will also be releasing 1g pre-rolls of each strain, featuring Blueberry Muffin Indica from Ventoso Farms, and Magic Melon Sativa from Tuff-n-Tendergrass.
Flow Kana is teaming up with Earthen Farms, a social and environmentally conscious cultivator in Mendocino County, for a limited edition drop: the Double Chem OG 1/8th.
This sungrown indica features a gassy, loud aroma and a rich, smooth taste. Placing 4th in the Sun-Grown category at the 2019 Emerald Cup with genetics originally from Rebel Grown, this heavy-hitting strain packs a punch. Featuring terpenes like caryophyllene, limonene, myrcene, and humulene, this strain is mentally uplifting, but has a strong relaxing effect on the body.
Proceeds are going to a national LGBTQIA non-profit organization serving as a lifeline for at risk queer youth.
Platinum Vape” humanitarian efforts go well beyond supporting the LGBTQ community for the month of June. With the creation of REACT, a full-time social equity program that allocates proceeds of certain products to support LGBTQ organizations (among others), they are able to provide needed financial support to at-risk communities year round.
This year, PV will be releasing a Pride-themed vape cartridge through REACT, where 25% of proceeds will be donated to the California and Michigan chapters of Equality California & Equality Michigan.
Platinum Vape’s full gram vape cartridges are available in participating California dispensaries and retail for $60 and half gram vape cartridges retail for $35. Vape cartridges contain 90% THC.
SPARC, a long-trusted cannabis company based in San Francisco, launched its compassion program in the early 2000s at the Maitri AIDS Hospice. To this day, the company delivers free cannabis products to AIDS patients twice a month. In honor of Pride Month, SPARC will launch its exclusive cartridge called Unicorn OG, donating $1 of each sale to the GLBT Historical Society.
In many ways, the female-founded LA vape brand Besito embodies the microdosed, design-forward future of the LA cannabis market. Since their golden, hexagon-shaped pens burst onto the scene in 2019, Besito’s chic look, subtle high, and history of LGBTQ rights and criminal justice reform advocacy, has made them a favorite amongst the hip and socially conscious canna-crowd.
To celebrate Pride, Besito will be building off their partnership with LA’s LGBT Center from last year, again donating 5% of all proceeds for June & July to the Center. Additionally, Besito will be offering 30% off all of their limited-edition merch and artist collaborations during LA Pride Weekend, June 12—14.
Look out for their upcoming social media experience called Puff Puff Pass Pride 2020. This virtual joint chain will feature drag queens and gay icons during LA Pride Week to tease their new (and first!) smokable product launching June 15th.
Kush Queen, the female-founded topical and wellness brand famous for exploding the cannabis bath bomb trend, refuses to let Pride 2020 pass without a party. This year, turn your tub into a club with their Pride Edition Bath Bombs, complete with THC or CBD, and a heavy dose of eco-friendly glitter.
Available in 25 milligrams THC x 25 milligrams CBD or just 100 milligrams CBD, the aroma of lavender, sandalwood, frankincense, orange, lemon and chamomile will melt you into euphoria, while the eco-friendly glitter swirls and shimmers in the water.
Kush Queen will be donating a portion of the proceeds of the Pride Edition Bath Bombs, available exclusively through Sol Distro, to Asylum Connect, a non-profit tech company providing the first and only resource website and mobile app for LGBTQ+ asylum seekers and other persecuted LGBTQ+ people.
With their flirty aesthetic, dessert flavored tinctures, and topicals catering to the pampered, the women owned-and-operated SoCal brand Yummi Karma is no stranger to the spirit of Pride. This year, they’ll be honoring the LGBTQ community with a special addition to their popular YK Drops tincture line, Rainbow Sherbert Drops.
The Rainbow Sherbert Drops pack a whopping 600 milligrams of broad-spectrum THC (20 milligrams per dropper), complete with a delicious rainbow sherbert flavor. Great for recreational use and available exclusively through Sol Distro, they’re one of Yummi Karma’s first “Good Karma” products, meaning all purchases of this product will help support the Orange County LGBTQ Center.
Hosted on June 27th, the anniversary of the Stonewall Riots, “The Summit” will feature a full spectrum of influential speakers, educational programming, and unique performances highlighting the intersections of LGBTQIA+ and minority communities in the cannabis space.
And on June 20th, Generation Pride is bringing Pride Brunch to you with a virtual party featuring performances from an array of entertainers, including cannabis advocate and drag icon LaGanja Estranja. The “Take Your Pride Higher Brunch” will deliver gourmet brunch boxes filled with breakfast treats, plus optional add-ons like a mimosa bar or cannabis product kits, and of course, lots and lots of glitter.
If you can consume legal cannabis, there is a small group of dedicated and passionate cannabis activists to thank, one of whom is Dennis Peron. Widely credited as the “Father of Medical Marijuana” in California, he was an activist who worked tirelessly for access to medical use cannabis, beginning with the San Francisco gay community at the height of the AIDS epidemic in the 1980s and ’90s. His partner, Jonathan West, died of AIDS in 1990.
Peron kept charismatic company, befriending politicians and activists like Harvey Milk, the first openly gay — and subsequently assassinated — politician in California, and Mary Jane Rathbun, aka Brownie Mary, who became well-known for baking and giving pot brownies to San Francisco’s AIDS patients. He later married another activist in the medical marijuana movement, John Entwistle.
My last photo session with Dennis Peron in Humboldt County, California in early 2017.
Peron was born in the Bronx and grew up in Long Island, New York. After a stint in the Air Force during the Vietnam War, Peron returned to the U.S. with two pounds of smuggled weed. Soon thereafter, he moved to San Francisco’s Castro District and joined Abbie Hoffman’s Youth International Party (Yippies), and in 1991, he organized the passage of San Francisco’s Proposition P, a resolution that allowed San Francisco residents to consume medical cannabis without being criminalized.
Cannabis, violence, and the road to legalization
In 1994, Peron co-founded, along with Brownie Mary and several others, San Francisco’s Cannabis Buyers Club, the first public medical cannabis dispensary in the U.S. But the Cannabis Buyers Club was nothing like the clean, curated and state-legal dispensaries consumers know today. Essentially selling illegal cannabis out in the open, the collective was under constant threat of harassment, arrest — which happened many times — and even violence (Peron was shot in the leg by a San Francisco police officer).
Perhaps Peron’s most well-known contribution to the current cannabis landscape is his work on California’s Proposition 215, thought to have blazed a direct path to the passage of Prop 64 in 2016 that legalized cannabis for adults 21 and older in the Golden State.
However, he did not support Prop 64 or Prop 19 before it, either literally or figuratively. Peron believed that there was no such thing as “recreational” cannabis and that all people who consume cannabis are doing it for medicinal purposes, whether they know it or not.
“There is no recreational marijuana. They made it up. What they’re trying to do is separate us by saying there’s people having fun and there’s people medicating,” Peron told Merry Jane in 2016. “But people who use marijuana don’t get ‘high,’ they get normal. The government is trying to say that people are getting high. They’re trying to demonize these people because they’re having fun.
He was also strongly opposed to taxing cannabis, saying in the “Time for Hemp” podcast in 2010, “In California and other states, medicine is not taxed. Now all of a sudden our medicine has to be taxed. And I don’t get this tax … And I know it sounds good to say, ‘let’s just tax our way out of this thing. But you can’t. This is a moral crusade.”
In his later years, Peron ran a cannabis farm in northern California and received formal recognition from the San Francisco Board of Supervisors for his activism. In 2018, at the age of 72, Peron passed away from lung cancer. He is survived by his husband, John Entwistle, another important activist in the gay rights and cannabis legalization movements. Peron has left behind an important and groundbreaking legacy.
Featured image by Eddie Hernandez Photos/Shutterstock