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  • Jennifer Betz

Cannabis and Pride! The LGBTQ+ Activists Who Started the Medical Marijuana Movement

LGBTQ+ communities and medical marijuana

You can thank passionate LGBTQ+ community leaders of the 1980s for medical marijuana in Missouri today!

In a country as divided as oil and water, one thing everyone seems to agree on these days is marijuana. Two-thirds of the country has legalized cannabis in some form or another, and most people concur that this is a positive development.

Adult-use legalization and social justice reform is spreading across the US, and qualifying for medical marijuana is getting easier and easier.

Most people don’t realize how much they have the LGBTQ+ community to thank for these developments!

June is National Pride Month, and even though St. Louis PrideFest 2021 is canceled, Missouri Marijuana Card wants to take a moment to recognize, celebrate, and thank a community that has been known for its activism since the Stonewall Uprising in 1969.

California: An Incubator for America

California has always been seen as the new horizon for a growing country, starting with the 1849 Gold Rush. Since then, the state’s population has grown to ten percent of the total US population, and it has been at the forefront of social and policy change for the last century.

The Golden State has been a hub for many movements over the years, with gay rights and legalized cannabis being among the biggest in recent decades.

Harvey Milk: The First Openly-Gay Elected Official and Advocate for Marijuana Legalization

Harvey Milk resigned from the Navy in 1955, when his sexuality was questioned. After leaving military service, Milk spent some years in New York in various civil-service positions, until he moved to California to join the growing gay community.

Milk opened a camera store and got involved in politics, ultimately winning his 1977 campaign for San Francisco City Supervisor and becoming the first openly gay elected official in United States history.

Tragically, his status only lasted about a year, because he and the mayor of San Francisco were both assassinated in 1978 by former City Supervisor and colleague Dan White.

During his short time in office, however, Milk got Proposition W passed in the city. The proposition did not enact a new policy. Instead, it was more of a proclamation supported by 63% of the residents of San Francisco, urging law enforcement to stop arresting and prosecuting people for growing, distributing and possessing marijuana.

Though Proposition W was not an official policy change, it was the spark that started the movement in California that would see its objectives reached 18 years later, when medical marijuana was legalized for the Golden State.

Brownie Mary: LGBTQ+ Advocate and Renegade Cannabis Baker

During and after Milk’s time as an activist for marijuana legalization, Mary Jane Rathbun was also on the scene as a prominent anti-war and counterculture activist. Rathbun met Dennis Peron, who was a friend to Milk and fellow activist in 1974. They shared a joint and that was history for Rathbun.

Rathbun started baking magic brownies, selling them to customers in the restaurant where she worked as a server. Later, she started giving her weed brownies to HIV and AIDS patients in San Francisco General Hospital, where she volunteered.

Rathbun was caught by the police a couple of times and arrested for distributing marijuana, but she continued her mission, helping the patients in San Francisco get the natural relief they needed.

Her final arrest was in 1992. By then, she was frail and in her 70s. The prosecutor offered her a plea bargain, but she insisted that the case be taken to trial. It was ultimately dropped, partially due to the optics of putting such a kindly old woman in prison.

Dennis Peron: The Father of Medical Marijuana

Dennis Peron was a close friend of Harvey Milk. A Vietnam War veteran, Peron moved into Castro after leaving the Air Force, where he used marijuana to help alleviate PTSD symptoms related to his service.

He became a cannabis activist, holding smoke-ins and selling marijuana out of several of his storefronts. Peron eventually met Milk, and he offered up his restaurant as headquarters for Milk’s campaigns.

Peron’s partner, Jonathan West, was diagnosed with AIDS in the early 1980s, and Peron eventually dedicated his life’s work to medical cannabis advocacy. In 1991, shortly after West’s death, Peron ushered in the overwhelming passage of Proposition P. Supported by 79% of San Francisco’s population, Proposition P called on the California government to allow distribution and possession of cannabis to treat HIV, AIDS, glaucoma, cancer, and other illnesses.

From San Francisco to New York State: The Momentum Continues

After the 1991 passage of Proposition P, Peron co-founded California’s first medical cannabis dispensary, The San Francisco Cannabis Buyers Club. The marijuana movement’s momentum was unstoppable at that point.

In 1996, Peron went on to help pass Proposition 215, legalizing medical marijuana in the state of California.

Now, cannabis legalization is spreading across the United States like a rainbow stretches across the sky after a long, dark storm rolls through. A total of 36 states including Puerto Rico and Guam have enacted a comprehensive medical marijuana program, and adult-use legalization is happening at lightning speed.

In Missouri, medical marijuana has been legal since voters made their voices heard and added legalization to the state constitution. Missouri residents who qualify for medical marijuana can walk into any MO dispensary and get natural relief for a long list of conditions.

Thank You to All the Activists Who Have Made Access to Medical Marijuana Possible for Residents of Missouri and Everyone Across the US!

From Missouri Marijuana Card to the LGBTQ+ community, happy Pride Month! We want to thank everyone who has contributed to legalization of medical marijuana in the United States, and everyone who continues the legacy of Harvey Milk and Dennis Peron.

If you are ready to get your medical marijuana card, we are here to help! Give us a call today, at (877) 303-3117, or simply schedule an online evaluation appointment today!


Doctors Who Care. Relief You Can Trust.

At Missouri Marijuana Card, our mission is helping everyone achieve wellness safely and conveniently through increased access to medical marijuana. Our focus on education, inclusion, and acceptance will reduce stigma for our patients by providing equal access to timely information and compassionate care.

Call us at (877) 303-3117, or simply book a medical marijuana evaluation to start getting relief you can trust today!

Check out Missouri Marijuana Card’s Blog to keep up to date on the latest medical marijuana news, tips, and information. Follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram to join the medical marijuana conversation in Missouri.

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