What Marijuana Legalization Can Learn From Marriage Equality

What Marijuana Legalization Can Learn From Marriage Equality

Sue Taylor explains how to engage seniors to fight for medical marijuana at our 2015 Leadership Summit. 


In 1996 about a quarter of Americans supported marijuana legalization and about a quarter supported same-sex marriage. That year the Defense of Marriage Act was signed to stop marriage equality and California passed the first medical marijuana initiative. Based on that trajectory, you would think that cannabis would be legal in far more states than gay marriage but the majority of states will issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples and I can only legally vaporize in four.

Here’s what the LGBT movement did right over the last two decades that is keeping cannabis in the closet.

You Have to Come Out, REALLY

Like cannabis consumption for the last eighty years, the lives of LGBT people were hidden away from the public. How did we go from just a quarter of Americans supporting marriage equality to a majority? A big part of that puzzle were LGBT people across the world coming out to their friends and family. We now have seven openly gay members of Congress; Annise Parker, the first openly gay mayor of a major city; and Ellen DeGeneres now in her 12th season of daytime TV.

Source: Quartz

It’s now time for cannabis consumers to come out to their friends and family. If you’d like to live in a world where we don’t fire epileptics for using cannabis to control their seizures, then you’ve got to come out to moms about marijuana. Our friends at Green Flower Media are helping cannabis consumers come out with their “Coming Out Green” campaign to end the social stigma.

You Have to Raise REAL Money

The LGBT movement benefits from having some very wealthy individual & corporate backers. With 72% of Democrats supporting same-sex marriage, we can now require support for marriage equality from all democratic primary candidates. Remember that the majority of Democrats also support marijuana legalization but the existing activist organizations don’t drive enough political donations to flip candidates over to our side. If you’d like a new industry, you’ve got to pay for it and we’re simply not raising nearly enough funds to legalize marijuana.

When the political fundraising process isn’t working then other systems will fill that power vacuum. In Ohio they’ve found ten companies to donate $2 million each to legalize and regulate marijuana. I applaud any effort that gets medicine to patients and stops marijuana arrests, BUT it’s pretty sad that the only way to fund that is by promising those ten companies a monopoly on marijuana production.

You Have to Understand Your Opponents REAL Objections

We all live in our own bubbles and when you enter the marijuana industry, you tend to lose touch with people who object to marijuana use. I challenge you to find your most anti-drug friend and keep them close because they are the market research you need to convince anyone like them. I’m often surprised that the issues I think the rest of America has with cannabis consumption are more nuanced.

I was explaining to my conservative friend about how we want to legalize public consumption of marijuana in private venues to normalize cannabis consumption and provide a safer alternative to alcohol. She said she objected to public consumption because she didn’t want to fail a drug test from being near people consuming cannabis. She had been seriously misinformed about how much marijuana smoke would need to be in a room for her to get high from it. I would have had no idea that this was a talking point we needed to cover unless I had asked my most anti-drug friend first.


Source: Vox

The One REAL Difference: Who Gets Paid for the Status Quo?

Allowing gay couples to adopt and marry provides more jobs & tax revenue. Gay marriage boosted NYC’s economy $259 million in the first year alone. Apart from revenue collected from marriage licenses, the bulk of this economic boost came from wedding receptions being held at venues such as hotels and restaurants across the city. Besides the “conversion therapy” centers, there are few people making a living by discriminating against LGBT people. (Never heard of conversion therapy? Ranging from chemical castration with hormonal treatments to counseling, these treatments were meant to make you straight. Conversion therapists were the first group to send me hate mail when I launched a Gay-Straight alliance at my high school.)

The drug war is another enterprise, employing thousands and deploying millions in federal funding across the world. It has become increasingly apparent that the drug war is racially biased and perversely incentivized, leading to the harassment of communities of color. Police can also use civil asset forfeitures to seize the cash & property of suspects and its up to the suspects to prove their innocence to get their property back (it’s guilty until proven innocent for anyone suspected of drugs). We don’t even have time to get into the millions of people in our for-profit correctional system, so I’ll let Vox explain…


  1. There are definite similarities to both causes however the legal ramifications are very different. Coming out in regards to one’s sexuality runs you no risk of legal consequences. I currently own my own business in CA in the industry and don’t come out because I have children and social services doesn’t care how the law reads. Yes, I want to advocate and speak up but not at the risk of losing my children to a broken system. I wish it were different

    • Hi Kelly,

      Thanks for sharing your world with us.

      It was not so long ago that coming out in United States was very illegal (remember sodomy laws?). There are currently 79 countries where being gay is illegal (http://76crimes.com/76-countries-where-homosexuality-is-illegal/). NYC Pride began because of the violence that erupted at the Stonewall Inn after the community got sick of regular police raids and resisted in 1969 with three days of rioting. It was only in 1973 that homosexuality was removed from the American Psychiatric Association list of mental illnesses. In England, at that time, coming out meant being forced to chemically castrate yourself.

      Today many LGBT people are being denied basic human rights. They are not protected from discrimination at work. They are regularly denied the ability to adopt or visit a sick loved one in the hospital. For transpeople, just going to a public bathroom is an act of radical social disobedience.

      This is not to say your struggle is no more real or less difficult. You risk every day to do what you know is right and what I want to show you is that the LGBT movement and marijuana legalization have a lot more in common than different. We can all learn and support each other. Thank you for your work and I’m moving to California personally to help make a difference in the child and social services for all of us.

  2. As a married Lesbian I could not agree more with this article. I have lost a job over being gay and I have lost a job over my support of MMJ
    The loss if these jobs would not have occurred if either of these 2 issues had been Legalized at the time. Just as Marriage Equality was won,so will Cannabis Equality
    One voice becomes two and two becomes many. Good things happen when you come out of any closet. Just ask this Married, pot loving Lesbian. Well Done Jasmine

  3. Can someone address Kelly’s question? We are facing the same types of problems, hence our hesitation in investing in a movement in Charlotte North Carolina , because we can’t offer protection to those who want to come out but can’t due to job or family constraints. Women grow, you rock! Need some help in Charlotte!

  4. Yes I agree with the other comments about the difference being quite large. No one would take my children if I came out lesbian. However they could if I grew commercially. I want nothing more then to be part of the industry (legally) but fear of implications to my family are hard to get past.

    • It was not too long ago that children were taken from a Gay Parent. In fact, SCOTUS
      is ruling on DOMA related issues right now. The Courts never sided with a Gay parent until very recently. What turned the tide on this issue was a direct result of people coming out to effectively change the Laws.

      • Robin …. I’m guessing by your answer you have no children. I think it’s irresponsible to tell people to come out when doing so can cost them their children. I’m all for reform .. But not at the cost and well being of my children. Losing a job is one thing, and losing friends, both of which I have to work in this industry .. But I draw the line with my family. I’m disappointed that the author of the article hasn’t addressed my comments and those of others on this thread. Idealism is wonderful but reality is something I live in everyday. Go on the Norml website and read the devasting stories … It’s heart breaking.

        • I don’t have kids. I’m a56 yr old Lesbian who has know people who have list kids for coming out gay. It took those people coming out and sadly losing children until enough people came out and changed the situation. Now there is a difference between losing your kids over who you love VS losing your kids to smoking weed. We Gay folks lost a lot not to long ago.

        • Want some help with your business, Kelly? I don’t have kids and I can be the public face for the biz if you want! Bet we can find a way to make it work. ?

  5. Very interesting and well written article! I’d like to read more. I rarely smoked when my children were young, in the 90s, DARE would fill their heads with crap, and ask 8 y/o have you ever seen/smelled this at home? Now, I consider and market myself as a cannabis expert, which grew from my Masters in Good and Sustainable societies. It’s the fear of arrest, even though i blog cited research or news, use photos stock or legal state of packaged medicinal products. And please dont say that LGBTs went to jail too. Never for as long as, or in the massive numbers as for carrying a splif.

  6. When I read about the Fed. government legalizing gay marriage I said next is marijuana. As more states legalize the use whether for medicinal or/and recreational the Fed. government will step in to regulate it and make money from it. The majority needs to be heard, vote and make sure the politicians are not allowing their sponsors ie their pharma and private prison companies to controll their vote.



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