LGBTQ+ Pride's Crucial Role in the Modern Cannabis Industry

The LGBTQ+ community stepped up to provide relief to their friends and family members dying from AIDS.

Since June is Pride Month – a 30-day show of support for the LGBTQ+ community – Green Market Report thought it was worth a few hundred words to note that the modern U.S. marijuana industry likely wouldn’t exist if it hadn’t been for the courage of that same community of activists who have been willing to push back against societal norms for decades.


In the early 1990s, marijuana was largely reviled by the mainstream political establishment as a narcotic for minorities, hippies, and liberal enemies of Republican President Richard Nixon, who launched the War on Drugs in 1971. But it was gay activists responding to the AIDS/HIV crisis of the 1980s who brought back the dormant notion of cannabis as medicine into the political discourse.

It was the LGBTQ+ community that chose to step up and risk legal battles with law enforcement for the sake of providing relief to their friends and family members who were dying painfully from AIDS.

And it was LGBTQ+ activists, organized by legendary cannabis advocate Dennis Peron and other allies, who got the city of San Francisco to pass the first-ever modern medical marijuana ballot measure, Proposition P, in 1991.

It was that 1991 victory in San Francisco that set the stage for the entire state of California to vote in favor of legalizing marijuana for medical purposes in 1996, with Proposition 215. That measure laid down a loose industry framework that stood for the next 20 years, until Proposition 64 was approved by voters in 2016 to legalize adult-use marijuana.

Beyond California

Prop 215 also blazed a medical and political trail that was followed, to date, by nearly every state in the nation since 1996, as marijuana has widely been accepted as having valuable medical properties that can help not just AIDS patients but those with many other serious ailments, from chronic pain to epilepsy to multiple sclerosis. Some researchers have even found evidence that marijuana could be the key to curing cancer.

Those early victories in the 1990s by LGBTQ+ activists also gave political momentum to other marijuana reformers, which is what helped build both the U.S. cannabis industry that exists today, as well as the international cannabis trade in Canada, Europe, Australia, South America, and Asia.

As of June 2023, a whopping 40 U.S. states, along with four territories and the District of Columbia, have adopted functional MMJ markets, and another 23 states have fully legalized marijuana. Hemp was legalized nationwide in 2018.

Even many states that don’t have operational markets have either decriminalized cannabis or allow for possession of marijuana-based medicines, such as tinctures. The only state where cannabis remains completely prohibited – with no form of legal possession – is Idaho. And the U.S. cannabis industry alone did more than $26 billion in sales last year.

All of this means that anyone who earns a paycheck today from the cannabis industry arguably has LGBTQ+ activists from 30 years ago to thank for it. It’s a debt that everyone in the modern marijuana trade should never forget.

Happy Pride Month, from the Green Market Report team!

John Schroyer

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The Green Market Report focuses on the financial news of the rapidly growing cannabis industry. Our target approach filters out the daily noise and does a deep dive into the financial, business and economic side of the cannabis industry. Our team is cultivating the industry’s critical news into one source and providing open source insights and data analysis


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