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Celebrating the LGBTQ+ Leaders in the Cannabis Industry

LGBTQ+ Community Leaders, Harvey Milk | Dennis Peron | Karen Paull and Wendy Robbins

Few industries can attribute their success to the LGBTQ+ community like cannabis. The foundation for today’s legalization efforts was laid by the men and women who saw the benefits of marijuana, and fought to make it available to all.

To celebrate Pride Month, PharmaCann celebrates the leaders in the gay community who have pushed the industry and country as a whole to keep growing.

Dennis Peron, Founder of the Medical Marijuana Movement

Every cannabis history book should have a chapter dedicated to Dennis Peron. Peron and his partner lived in San Francisco during the early years of the HIV and AIDS epidemic. He saw how marijuana appeared to reduce nausea and stimulate the appetite in AIDS patients, including his partner who died of the disease in 1990. He founded the Cannabis Buyers’ Club in 1991, the country’s first public medical marijuana dispensary. At its peak in 1996, the club had 12,000 members.

Because marijuana was not legal in California in the early ‘90s, Peron and other supporters were often harassed and arrested for the distribution and sale of an illegal substance. In 1996, Peron co-authored California Proposition 215, the Compassionate Use Act (CUA), which called for qualified patients and approved caregivers to possess and cultivate medical marijuana. It passed that same year, opening the door for the legalization of cannabis.

Harvey Milk, First Politician to Advocate for Legalization

Harvey Milk is known throughout the country for his gay-rights activism, as well as being the first openly gay politician to be elected to office in 1977. One of Milk’s progressive platforms included legalization of cannabis, and, before he was assassinated in 1978, he was able to offer his support to the burgeoning cannabis movement.

Milk campaigned with Peron in support of Proposition W, a non-binding policy statement that called on the San Francisco District Attorney and Chief of Police to stop arresting and prosecuting people who grow, cultivate, sell, and use cannabis. With Milk’s help, 63% of San Franciscans approved the proposition in 1978.

Karen Paull and Wendy Robbins, The Lesbian Godmothers of Cannabis

As cannabis legalization has moved into the digital age, new leaders have emerged to help shape the industry. Married couple Karen Paull and Wendy Robbins saw cannabis used by friends diagnosed with breast cancer and realized the opportunities within the business. These Los Angeles executives developed The Marijuana Show in 2014, a Shark Tank-like reality series on Amazon where cannabis entrepreneurs pitch their business plans in the hopes of receiving funding. In one season, the show gave away $13 million to cannabis start-ups to do research and build innovation within the industry.

There have been so many leaders within the LGBTQ+ community that have had a profound impact on the cannabis industry. And we anticipate more will emerge in the years to come! Find out more about what a Verilife dispensary near you is doing to celebrate the LGBTQ+ community during this Pride Month.


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