The movement for medical cannabis owes its very existence to the LGBTQ community, but it's a history most people are not aware of.
California was the first state in the nation to legalize medical cannabis when proposition 215 was passed in 1996. Steve DeAngelo, author of "The Cannabis Manifesto" called the event the "spark that set off the medicinal cannabis movement." The measure didn't just pop up out of nowhere. Dennis Peron, a Vietnam war veteran, AIDS activist, and Proposition 215 co-author got to work on legalizing medical cannabis after a police raid on his home. During the law enforcement action, police seized four ounces of cannabis; not uncommon, but it wasn't there for fun.
The cannabis in the home was there because Peron's best friend and partner Jonathan West was dying of AIDS. Today's powerful antiretroviral drugs for AIDS treatment did not exist in the 1990s, and West had been managing his AIDS-related pain by the use of cannabis. The police raid led to a court case that resulted in the legal recognition that cannabis has medicinal value.
(Image of Dennis Peron)
West, who died 2 weeks after his day in court, became a symbol of hope for patients who felt they had no alternative but cannabis. With the passing of proposition 215, the door was open to widespread cannabis reform. The confluence of the AIDS epidemic, increased rights for LGBTQ individuals, and medical cannabis have created a phenomenon.
From the start, the LGBTQ community has been instrumental in bringing cannabis’s life-enhancing potential to light. We’ve seen the community’s impact on cannabis activism in entertainment, politics, and more, as well as for the HIV/AIDs epidemic. If bringing more exposure to the medical benefits of cannabis means being more inclusive as a society, everybody wins.