Article by Dana Larsen, Straight Cannabis
Thank you for your open letter of April 24 to me and others involved in the Vancouver 4/20 cannabis protest. I’m sorry it has taken me a few weeks to respond, but I wanted to give your thoughtful letter the detailed and considerate reply it deserved.
First I want to thank you for the work you’re doing at the Q Hall of Fame. I had not heard of your group before, but after exploring your website I see that you are doing good work in documenting and commemorating the brave people who have worked and sacrificed to advance the cause of equal rights for the LGBTQ+ community. I agree that it is important that we don’t forget our history, and that those who have led the cause for human dignity and freedom should be commemorated.
The main concern you raise in your letter is that you see the cannabis movement as trying to “hitch on the tails” of the Pride movement. I hope that my letter will encourage you to look at this from a different perspective. I hope to show you that the cannabis movement being inspired by the success of the Pride movement is a good thing, and a sign of respect and support. I hope to convince you that you should be pleased to see how the bravery and dedication of LGBTQ+ activists has given inspiration to activists pushing for cannabis reform and other kinds of positive social change.
You bring up “arguments from the pro 4/20 side that has equated these events with the Pride events”. When speaking with the media, I do sometimes draw parallels between the Pride Parade and our 4/20 protest, but I would never say that these two events are exactly the same.
If a reporter asks me “Will you cancel 4/20 after cannabis is legalized?”, I sometimes reply “Did they cancel the Pride Parade after gay marriage was legalized?” It’s a quick soundbite to explain that there are still many reasons to gather, protest, and celebrate a movement even after a law gets changed.
Other times I might point out that the Pride Parade began as a protest against government attacks on a vulnerable community, but now has mayors and prime ministers marching in solidarity, and that I hope one day our 4/20 protest can enjoy the same kind of transformative success.
Obviously, there are very significant differences in the origins, history, and current status of Pride and 4/20, but there are also clearly some similarities which unite both events.
Both Pride and 4/20 began as radical protests by a community suffering from persecution by government and police, and both have evolved into becoming large, mainstream cultural events. Both started as protests in a couple of big cities and have spread across the country to now be celebrated in many cities and towns. It’s also true that “LGBT advocacy and cannabis legalization represent two of the fastest evolving public opinion issues in contemporary society.” I don’t see how acknowledging these parallels does any disservice to the activism and sacrifices of the Pride pioneers.
More importantly, and more interestingly, if we look back just a few decades we see that the cannabis movement and the LGBTQ+ movement are actually deeply intertwined. It’s not unreasonable to say that the whole medical cannabis movement really began as an offshoot of the gay rights movement!