Since the early days of AIDS activism and cannabis advocacy, cannabis and queer rights have gone hand in hand. LGBTQ folks fought alongside straight allies to help win patients’ rights, and since then, despite the somewhat straight, white, male narrative running through the cannabis industry, the two have been intrinsically linked. This Pride season, we are getting back to our roots and highlighting the people and companies celebrating all flavors of love during the gayest month of the year.
Leading with Pride
High There recently spoke with many different LGBTQ+ leaders and allies in the cannabis space to find out what Pride means to them during the month of June and beyond.
Rich Rodriguez, Delic Corp
“The industry has been very open and welcoming to me,” he says. “I’ve met so many people from different backgrounds, but we all share positive experiences with cannabis and psychedelics and believe in their power to help people suffering from various mental and physical conditions. My greatest achievement was becoming a dad to a beautiful baby boy this year after almost 10 years of trying with my husband. Nothing compares to it!”
Kassia Graham, Cannaclusive
As director of community and strategy at
“By merely existing, we are rebelling against what is considered ‘normal’ by cis, heterosexual people,” they say. “Queerness has been colonized, criminalized, heavily legislated, and prohibited; much like cannabis. And like cannabis, the queer community has always moved the needle when it comes to culture (art, music, dance, and so on).”
When it comes to personal achievements, some of her favorites are helping Mary Pryor found Cannaclusive as the first non-founder to join the team. The focus with the organization is to do good work for the community through groups like
“I’m going to be in the industry for as long as I am able, so I hope there will be bigger and better achievements whether via Cannaclusive or another organization in the space,” she says.
Ian Brooks, QUSH Employee Resource Group
For Ian Brooks, who uses they and he pronouns and serves as DevOps Engineer and Founding Member of Curaleaf’s QUSH Employee Resource Group, being queer in the industry is all about self-advocacy.
“Being queer feels like being an advocate, but I am advocating FOR myself TO myself,” they say. “Growing up in a heteronormative culture filled my brain with problematic rules and inaccurate judgements that require me to fight my own programming just to be who I truly am. Participating in the cannabis industry demands similar emotional fortitude. The culture of prohibition has left deep marks on our psyche that chips away at what we know to be true: Cannabis IS medicine. Doubting your own validity just comes with the territory.”
When it comes to his work with QUSH, the brand has created an inclusive environment that allows the community to flourish at work and at home. It runs educational sessions to teach employees about using inclusive speech when referring to pronouns and gender identity and host social events that serve as safe spaces to connect and talk about issues. In the past year, QUSH’s membership has grown, and Brooks is proud to say the team adds new members each week.
Michael Conway, Ascend Wellness Holdings (AWH)
“My queerness hasn’t really affected me at
In this role, Conway takes great pride in watching out for the community and providing visibility. He has had LGBTQ team members tell him that seeing him in his role gives them the confidence to be themselves, and that this is the first time they have been able to be themselves in their workspace.
Omar Riney, Lantern
As a queer, Black man, cannabis has always been a part of Omar Riney of
“Growing up and ‘coming out,’ I didn’t know exactly who I was, but I knew I wanted to feel connected to people around me,” he says. “I wanted support and love; I really wanted community. When I first started to settle into my queer identity, I was in 7th grade, and my best friend had just moved across the country. I felt alone.
“I ‘came out’ at school first to a group of people I thought were my friends. Word spread around the student population quickly, and a few weeks after I had told my friends, I started getting called names in the halls between classes and at lunch. One day, and I will never forget this, a boy in my grade brought a blow dart gun to school. He shot me in the back twice and I ran. No one defended me; no one showed up for me. I reported it to the school administration, but the other students said they didn’t see anything. That memory will always be with me, and it is so very painful. I imagine that has something to do with my motivation to be better than that boy, to not hate difference, and to not be scared of what it means to not fit the status quo.”
Products with Pride
From clothing to housewares are tons of products that emulate the spirit of pride and even give back to LGBTQ+ organizations and efforts. The cannabis industry is not excluded from this effort, with various brands offering cannabis-infused goods to help show Pride and support the good cause. Here are just a couple examples.
Rainbow Sprinkles from Good Day Farm
“At Good Day Farm, we believe in helping good people, providing good cannabis, and ensuring a good day for all. Being good stewards of the communities and patients we serve is core to our business and beliefs, says Chief Marketing Officer Laurie Gregory.
“We knew we wanted to support LGBTQ+ efforts in honor of Pride month and researched local organizations that were making a positive impact. The Center Project’s work in this space seemed like a great fit for our mission of serving and celebrating the LGBTQ+ community in Columbia and Missouri since 2004. We chose Lucie’s Place in Little Rock, Arkansas where Good Day Farm was born and we are proud to be doing good and making an impact in our hometown.”
Kush Queen: The 2022 Pride Collection
Cannabis wellness product company,
What’s best about this collection aside from the quality we’ve come to expect from Kush Queen products is that a portion of every Kush Queen pride purchase will support The Social Impact Center and The TransLatin@ Coalition.