Once June rolls into July and Pride Month comes to an end, our collective attention as cannabis marketers moves on to Fourth of July sales and 7/10 campaigns. But Pride doesn’t end on June 30th for the LGBTQ+ community: It’s year-round.
While Pride Month is vital for bringing queer visibility front and center, the LGBTQ+ community’s contributions and perspectives should not be relegated to just this special awareness month. Seeking out queer voices, respecting and uplifting those points of view, and incorporating that insight into tangible change is an ongoing effort that takes awareness, commitment, and action.
Why is LGBTQ+ inclusion a cannabis industry issue?
Much of the legal cannabis industry we enjoy today is due to the efforts of activists at the height of the AIDS crisis who advanced the medical cannabis cause, eventually leading to the country’s first legal medical cannabis dispensaries. Honoring this legacy is not just about sharing this history, but by working to protect, celebrate, and uplift the community from which the modern cannabis industry descended.
There’s also the trauma experienced by many in the LGBTQ+ community: queer folks are twice more likely to experience mental health issues than their heterosexual, cisgender counterparts.
Cannabis can help alleviate the symptoms of anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and depression associated with that trauma. In fact, research has confirmed that queer people are more likely to consume cannabis than straight people.
These two facts are telling: The cannabis community and the LGBTQ+ community are deeply intertwined. Now, the question becomes how to reflect that legacy in your company. After all, queer folks were instrumental in advancing the legalization movement, which now stands on the precipice of the end of federal prohibition.
Four ideas for incorporating Pride every day in your cannabusiness
If you’re wondering how your company or organization can take practical steps to support the LGBTQ+ community year-round, take these four ideas into account:
#1: Include queer people in your decision-making processes
How are queer people involved in your company every day?
Look around the room and see who’s missing. Are queer people present in your company’s decision-making processes? Don’t just make a diversity hire and tell the world you did it: Give queer voices a meaningful and impactful seat at the table.
This is not just about who your company hires, but with whom you do business. Consider purchasing products from queer-owned businesses, hiring queer talent, and utilizing the services of queer professionals. Check out Inclusivebase, a resource maintained by Cannaclusive, for a database of cannabis brands and cannabis-adjacent businesses owned by marginalized communities, including the LGBTQ+ community.
#2: Help queer people feel welcome
How can you create a welcoming and supportive environment for queer people to be their authentic selves?
Something as simple as a Pride flag or pronouns in email signatures may seem small in the grand scheme of things, but there’s a reason these types of gestures matter: They are signals to queer customers and employees alike that your business is welcoming and supportive of the LGBTQ+ community.
Larger efforts will not go unnoticed, either. For example, if your hiring strategy includes making effort to reach out to the queer community for viable candidates, customers will take note. Imagine a customer entering a retail environment only to be greeted by a queer manager time and again. That visibility and stability go a long way to quickly building a strong rapport with your customers.
#3: Consider giving back to LGBTQ+ causes
Part of honoring the queer community’s contributions to the cannabis industry is to give back to LGBTQ+ organizations that need volunteer and monetary support. This is especially important after June: Once Pride Month ends, collections, contributions, and volunteer opportunities tend to end along with it. (This is common among all awareness months, where engagement drops off once the marketing messaging fades away.)
Think about how your company can build strong coalitions with these organizations throughout the year. Are there regular volunteer opportunities you can engage with, products or services you can donate, sponsorships and scholarships you can fund? Especially for not-for-profit organizations, your support, in whichever form it takes, is strongly appreciated — and needed — long after Pride formally wraps up.
#4: Honor the queer legacy of the cannabis industry
How do you — and can you — hold space to honor those who came before us?
It goes without saying that the modern medical cannabis industry would not be here without queer activists. The movement has flourished due to the blood, sweat, and tears of figures like Dennis Peron, “Brownie Mary” Rathbun, and Paul Scott, whose efforts directly influenced the creation of the first legal medical cannabis program in the U.S. Raising awareness of these contributions is the first step to honoring these individuals year-round, not just when Pride Month calls for it.
Moving forward — together
Now that the cannabis community has transformed from its underground roots to a multi-billion-dollar industry, it’s important that we as an industry do not forget that. Whether you’re queer or an ally, if you participate in the cannabis industry as a professional, consumer, or both, we have to thank the queer community for its role in moving legalization forward. A true “thank you” doesn’t stop at turning your logo rainbow or writing a check to a queer organization once a year — it’s an ongoing, yearlong effort that we encourage every company in the cannabis industry to pursue.