[Canniseur: It’s Pride Month! I love this list of LGBTQ movers and shakers. What is that you say? No lesbians made the list? This backs up the author’s claim that our industry still has plenty of work left to engage diversity.]
Members of the cannabis industry often tout their field as one of the most inclusive. The legal cannabis market is, after all, being constructed and furnished right before our very eyes — why wouldn’t it be diverse and accepting and progressive?
After all, given the medical marijuana movements close ties to the AIDS crisis (shout out to medical marijuana pioneers Dennis Peron and Brownie Mary!). But unfortunately, when something like the promise of an industry free from the ills of discrimination and patriarchy sounds too good to be true, that’s usually because it is.
Sure, the latest data shows that the cannabis industry employs more self-identified women than tech or agriculture, but men still retain most of the power positions at these businesses, holding titles like CEO or director more often than their female counterparts. From a racial justice perspective, most locations where cannabis is legal in the U.S. have been slow to implement equity measures, which means the rich (statistically speaking, old straight white men) get richer and the communities of color most likely to have been affected by cannabis prohibition get pushed to the side. And from the broadest standpoint, there’s the sad fact that most people in the cannabis industry aren’t making much money anyway.
But even if the world of legal weed isn’t quite the progressive capitalist utopia it’s sometimes cracked up to be, we can still push for a better industry, and there are some very exciting people in the space right now working to do just that. Here are a few members of the LGBTQ community making big waves in the cannabis business — support them if you get a chance, because their success creates even more room for their contemporaries.
Joshua Crossney is the founder and CEO of nonprofit jCanna, as well as the man behind the Cannabis Science Conference, an annual event that pools together cannabis industry experts. Crossney has focused his career on promoting research and education, but has also been open about his sexuality and promoting inclusion in the world of cannabis.
“Although we talk about the inclusion in the industry, and it is very diverse, at the end of the day it is a predominantly white male-dominated industry,” Crossney said in an interview with High Times. “That is evolving and changing and we’re seeing a lot more involvement from different groups, but I think really embracing your true self and being who you are is really the best avenue to take with this.”
Nick Abell & Cameron Ray Rexroat
The entrepreneurs behind Just Another Jay, a cannabis lifestyle blog and marketing consulting business, are also partners who push for LGBTQ visibility in the cannabis industry and beyond.
“We were noticing we were only showcased in events such as Pride Month, but after that it was like we never existed,” Rexroat told Cannabis Now in a soon-to-be-published interview. “[Now], that is a huge driver in everything that we do. We need to break down not only the stigma, but also educate people about cannabis and highlight discrimination that’s going on within the industry.”
HollyWeed North Cannabis CEO Renee Gagnon has been outspoken about the importance of LGBTQ representation in the cannabis industry. Her bio on HollyWeed’s website notes that she is “both the first transgender publicly traded marijuana company CEO and the first female one.”
Gagnon says visibility is critical for marginalized groups, like members of the LGBTQ community, to get a fair shot at success in the realm of canna-business.
“Access to capital will always determine the racial and gender split at the top,” Gagnon told Leafly. “To be denied access to a fundamental thing like equality in the start of a new industry just pisses me off.”
Buck Angel & Leon Mostovoy
Buck Angel first gained prominence as an openly trans adult actor, and found himself draw to the cannabis business because of the plant’s close ties with LGBTQ history.
“The queer community, specifically gay men and the HIV/AIDS crisis, are why we even have legal cannabis today,” Angel told LGBTQ publication them. “Now, it’s going to become all white male corporate out there, and the queer community that’s been in on it forever and started this whole thing will be left out.”
Angel partnered with fellow activist and trans man Leon Mostovoy to create cannabis company Pride Wellness, which aims to “develop products focused on the medical ailments prevalent to people in the LGBT community,” according to its website.