The movement to legalize cannabis and the fight for LGBTQIA+ rights are intrinsically intertwined. This historical correlation emerged from cannabis’ illicit use as treatment during the height of the HIV/AIDS epidemic. As the disease ravaged the queer community, medical marijuana advocates like Dennis Peron and Mary Jane Rathbun championed its use as a way to alleviate suffering incurred both by the disease and the harmful side effects of the drugs prescribed to fight the disease. Ultimately, they were able to develop the first medical cannabis dispensary in California.
The LGBTQIA+ community still uses medical cannabis to combat higher rates of depression, anxiety and PTSD, often as a direct result of the systemic oppression it’s had to face. But despite the need among this population and its historic involvement in the medical cannabis movement, the industry remains dominated by cis gendered individuals who often struggle authentic representation or only show up for the community during Pride month.
Andrés Rigal is poised to end this inadequate under-representation with Green Qween – a queer-driven cannabis dispensary intentionally centered on supporting the local LGBTQIA+ BIPOC community in Downtown Los Angeles. Green Qween would use cannabis as a vehicle and economic engine for change, funding the construction of a DTLA Proud Community Center, which would offer services for those community members in need, as well as hire transitional employees through its partnership with Chrysalis, incubate LGBTQIA+ consumer brands with shelf space, and display prolific queer art with murals.
Eric Solis, a founding Boardmember of DTLA Proud said, “this will be a huge boom for the local community and positively contribute to the burgeoning LGBTQIA+ populace that lives, works and plays in DTLA. We are thrilled to be in partnership with a first of its kind queer cannabis dispensary of the modern age built on principles of diversity, inclusion, and investment in the local community.”
Green Qween is certainly more reminiscent of the mission driven community hubs of Brownie Mary’s day than the sleek corporate monuments to profit going up around the city.
“An overwhelming percentage of the homeless kids are Queer and Trans boys & girls who have been kicked out of their homes. I quite literally see un-housed LGBTQIA+ homeless youth wasting away in front of my building” says Rigal. “It’s our responsibility to our community to create organizations, safe spaces and queer owned businesses that give back to our community by building foundations for generations to follow much like the legacy of those who lived before us.”
The community has taken quick note coalescing around this vision for a safer and more inclusive DTLA with a Change.org petition urging Councilmember Kevin de Leon’s support which reached 2,000 signatures in only 72 hours. This comes after the Downtown Los Angeles Neighborhood Council already unanimously supported the application and dozens of other letters were submitted on its behalf from local community organizations.
LGBTQIA+ celebrities are even taking note, using their fame to highlight Green Qween. RuPaul’s Drag Race finalist and DTLA resident Gottmik said about Green Qween “as a transgender individual it is very rare to find businesses that actively support the community let alone dedicate their entire mission to being a safe space to all. Seeing DTLA pushing forward and creating such vital queer spaces is absolutely inspiring and necessary for the queer community.”
Drag Race’s Season 12 runner up Gigi Goode also chimed in, stating, “DTLA has always had a safe space for queer people to come and be surrounded by like-minded individuals. I support Green Qween because it’s built on those kinds of queer relationships.”
While Green Qween leased its location on Broadway over a year ago, it’s been waiting for the City to start processing. Its application is now on the desk of de Leon and otherwise set to expire June 2nd without action.
In a letter to the councilmember, Chela Demuir, the Founder of Unique Women’s Coalition (Los Angeles’ first supportive organization for and by Black Trans people) said, “the black trans community was hit hard by disproportionate policing in the failed war on drugs – members of our community have lost their freedom, livelihood, and in too many cases their lives. We need [Kevin de Leon’s] support to make the cannabis industry more open and accepting to the LGBTQIA+, & BIPOC community.”
Green Qween is asking de Leon to support this vision for a safer and more inclusive DTLA at the June 1st meeting of the City Council’s Planning and Land Use Management committee and is also requesting he add a placeholder to the June 2nd council meeting. Without these two essential actions the dream of a cannabis dispensary by the community and for the community will wither and die on the vine on the first days of Pride month.
If you’d like to add your voice urging Councilmember de Leon to support the community, please add your voice to the petition at www.change.org/queercannabis.
Daisy O’Dell is an award-winning music producer, DJ, documentary filmmaker, and founding partner of woman. a collective that strives to create equity, safety, and inclusion in music and nightlife.