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june / emily eizen

The relationship between cannabis and the queer community definitely does not begin with me. As many educated cannabis enthusiasts know, the recorded history starts with a gay hippie named Dennis Peron. Dennis is considered the father of medical cannabis. After he served in the Vietnam War, Peron moved to San Fransisco and joined the Youth International Party, (among the likes of Allen Ginsberg and Dana Beal). The American youth-oriented and countercultural revolutionary offshoot of the free speech and anti-war movements of the 1960s often held “smoke-ins” for peace and staged theatrical political protests. ​When the AIDS crisis hit, Peron saw how the plant comforted patients and helped with their aggressive symptoms. He sold cannabis from his storefront in the Castro and organized the Cannabis Buyers Club, the first public cannabis dispensary. After many raids and arrests, and the death of his partner Johnathan West, Peron went on to author and pioneer CA Prop. 215- California’s medical marijuana law in 1996. ​As a culture, we have come a long way thanks to the efforts of Peron and countless others. But what does any of this have to do with me, a queer artist and cannabis user in the 21st century? Well, I often notice how the cannabis industry as a whole has disconnected from its LGBTQ+ roots. While cannabis becomes more corporate and less grassroots, I feel like it is my responsibility as a free woman with privilege to continue the legacy of our brave pioneers. If you truly think about it, when have you seen a cannabis brand be truly queer-oriented, owned, or distributed (besides the month of June, where companies slap together a rainbow-themed campaign and call it a day)? The answer is few and far between. ​I am often overwhelmed by the thought of this responsibility. A part of me wants to live in a world where I don’t constantly have to “come out” or label myself as queer in every interview or publication. But ignoring these labels society has placed on us is not doing the present or future generations of cannabis users any favors. I must remember this—if not me, who will keep our history alive? It must be me (and others who I will mention later). Simply by stating my identity, I open up a conversation. ​Being a model who fits traditional beauty standards in the cannabis industry, there is a long-standing problem with my presence assumed as being for male consumption.  Because of the sexist objectification of women working in cannabis (eg: bud tenders, models, brand representatives), cishet men presume me to be another prop being used to sell weed. This is why I must speak out as queer. Because my sexuality is actually not meant for them. It is meant for myself, but more importantly, for queer girls! I want to use my sex appeal to be the openly-lesbian heartthrob I didn’t have growing up. Not just in the world of weed, but in the mainstream culture too. ​While I love modeling, and being a lesbian role model, I understand there is only so much I as a cis, white woman can provide in terms of representation for the queer community. This is why I also love being behind the camera. Having the opportunity to shoot for major cannabis brands and dispensaries, I aim to create a colorful world where the subjects of my photographs are beautiful queer people of all races and identities.​ ​As a new industry, we have the chance to make this one different. An inclusive, equitable industry where everyone feels welcome. Although the majority of legal cannabis does not reflect this yet, I still have hope thanks to the brands and people who are doing the important work. Organizations like 420 Queer, who provide a safe space for the LGBTQ stoner community. Activists organizations like Cannaclusive, who hold this industry accountable. Queer, black owned CBD skincare line Taylor + Tess, whose branding seeks to highlight the spectrum all genders. The relationship of the queer community and cannabis doesn’t begin with me, and it definitely doesn’t end with me. But I will keep working and doing my best to unite these two beautiful, complicated cultures.