Did you know that some of the early advocates in the cannabis rights movement were also people working for gay rights?
This month marks the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall Riots, which many recognize as the first major gay rights demonstration in America. The fight for LGBTQ rights joined a number of progressive movements of the era, like civil rights, women’s rights, free love and anti-war. Improved cannabis access fit right into these ideologies and lifestyles of many activists.
OutSpokane celebrates its annual Pride Parade and Rainbow Festival in downtown Spokane on Saturday, June 8. As we look back and move forward, we’re highlighting some individuals who have worked for rights on a variety of fronts in the cannabis movement.
Dennis Peron first sold cannabis at Big Top Café in San Francisco after returning from Vietnam with 2 pounds of the contraband plant in the 1970s. When he later saw the suffering of AIDS patients in his community, especially his partner Jonathan West, he worked to ensure that other people who derived medicinal benefits from cannabis had access.
Peron helped to pass Proposition P, a medical marijuana initiative in San Francisco in 1991, and opened the first public marijuana dispensary in the United States the next year. He later co-authored California Proposition 215, which legalized medical cannabis throughout the state.
A contestant on the sixth season of the competition reality show “RuPaul’s Drag Race,” Laganja Estranja – the stage name of dancer and choreographer Jay Jackson – felt so passionate about cannabis that she put a nickname for the plant right in her drag name. As she performs around the world, she uses her platform to advocate for the decriminalization of cannabis.
Her lifestyle brand includes a collaboration pre-roll with The Hepburns, called LAhepburns. She was the first LGBTQ entertainer to appear on the cover of DOPE magazine, and also hosted the web series, “Puff Puff Sessions,” where she discussed the benefits of marijuana use with guests.
In some ways, Carol Ehrhart and Alissa Taylor started their Spokane County cannabis business “as a joke.” The couple had worked to pass Washington Referendum 74 to establish marriage equality in 2012, which passed with over 53 percent of the vote. Also on the ballot in Washington that year was cannabis legalization in Initiative 502, passing with approximately 56 percent approval.
They could legally marry … why couldn’t they also sell cannabis?
They’ve accomplished both, marrying in August 2014 and opening their cannabis retailer in late December of the same year.
Although some people might not know that 4:20 Friendly at 1515 S. Lewis St. is owned by a gay couple (and they prefer it that way; they want people of all beliefs and walks of life to feel comfortable in their shop), 4:20 Friendly feels like many other family-owned establishments.
The store was built right next door to their house, so the owners will often visit with customers on their front porch. It’s located in a mixed-used, rural area on the edge of West Spokane, so it feels like a neighborhood store with a rustic wooden frame and hanging flower basket in front.
Like any couple who owns a business together, Ehrhart and Taylor work hard to balance their personal relationship with work. They have clearly defined responsibilities, and keep offices on opposites sides of their home to maintain professional space.
They employ a small staff of eight, and the relationship between the bosses and employees feels like family. If there are issues or concerns, Ehrhart and Taylor make sure they are on the same page before addressing anything with the staff.
In a highly regulated industry like cannabis, they have to trust that employees can adapt to rule changes and new products, and most importantly provide customers were with accurate information and friendly service … I mean, it’s right there in the name.
4:20 Friendly is basically a neighborhood “mom and pop” store. But it’s “mom and mom” and they’re selling weed. In 2019, that’s business as usual.
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