The marijuana and LGBTQ community have been intertwined throughout the years. Before 2000, both were outside of legal (and social) approval, but they simultaneously began to become normalized in society and have gone hand and hand since then. Advocacy for both issues interlaced for many reasons, mainly because cannabis helps treat a variety of health symptoms that are common throughout the LGBTQ community. 

These common health concerns such as AIDS, anxiety, and PTSD can all be managed with the help of medical mariujana. In the state of Florida, there has been a handful of health conditions that have been approved for symptom relief with medical marijuana. If you or someone you know is having difficulty managing their health and could benefit from the healing powers of medical marijuana, the compassionate Medical Marijuana Physicians at DocMJ can help. 

 

LGBTQ & The Legalization of Marijuana 

Not only are LGBT people more likely to use marijuana, but the initial push for medical marijuana legalization in the U.S. started in response to the AIDS epidemic. [1] California was the first state to legalize marinuana and the activist who initiated the legalization movement was an openly gay man named Dennis Peron.

Back in the 1980’s, the AIDS epidemic swept through the United States. The gay community was significantly effected by this, so much that it was originally thought that AIDS was only able to spread among gay men. It was a sudden and rapid onset disease that was claiming the lives of thousands of people, but one thing that was helping all of these sick people manage their symptoms was marijuana. 

Dennis Peron, aka the “father of medical marijuana” , dedicated his life to advocate for the medical use of marijuana and the passage of Proposition 215 – the first Medical Marijuana Initiative in California in 1996. In the late 1970s, Peron opened the Big Top Pot Supermarket on the top two floors of a Victorian house in the Castro District, where he illegally sold marijuana to thousands of San Francisco residents. A lot of the people he was selling marijuana to were in the gay community and were self medicating with marijuana in order to manage the symptoms that come along with the virus.

In 1992, Peron opened the San Francisco Cannabis Buyers Club, which was the first public medical marijuana dispensary in the U.S.. The apartment was decorated to look like a cafe and dozens of AIDS patients were recruited to be filmed buying marijuana from the club and smoking it when the media came.  Then in 1996, he helped start the initiative for Proposition 215 (The Compassionate Use Act of 1996) which was the first initiative to legally allow patients and caregivers the right to possess and cultivate marijuana for medical use. During this time, Peron’s Buyers Club was operating out of a 30,000-square-foot building with somewhere from 8,000 to 10,000 customers weekly. Consequently, Peron was arrested by the federal government because of the Buyers Club, but the initiative still passed with 55.6% of the vote.

Two decades later, marijuana use among the LGBTQ community is significNytl higher than it is for straight people. This is not only because of HIV/AIDS, but also because of the amount other mental and physical illnesses the queer community faces at a higher rate. According to data from a 2015 National Survey on Drug Use, sexual minority adults are more than twice as likely to use marijana when compared to heterosexual adults. [2]

Almost a third of sexual minority adults (30.7%) reported using marijuana in the past year, compared to 12.9 percent of heterosexual adults.These higher rates of marijuana use coexists with the higher rates of depression, anxiety, PTSD, eating disorders, and physical pain that LGBTQ people experience due to marginalization and oppression.

 

Common LGBTQ Health Concerns 

Cancer

Lesbians are at significantly higher risk for developing breast cancer than heterosexual women. Risk factors for breast cancer among lesbians include fewer full-term pregnancies, fewer mammograms and/or clinical breast exams, and being overweight. Traditionally, lesbians and bisexual women have been less likely to bear children and, as a result, may not fully benefit from hormones released during pregnancy and breastfeeding. These hormones are believed to protect women against different types of cancers. [3]

In some cases, gay men are at increased risk for several types of cancer—including prostate, testicular, and colon cancers. In addition, gay men, as well as anyone who has receptive anal sex, are at higher risk for anal cancer due to an increased risk of becoming infected with human papillomavirus (HPV), the virus that causes genital and anal warts. However, access to screening services may be severely limited due to issues and challenges in receiving culturally sensitive care. [4]

 

Mental Health

Many factors affect the mental and emotional health of the queer community. For example, a research study found that adverse and traumatic reactions from parents and caregivers in response to their children’s sexual orientation were closely correlated with poor mental health and an increase in substance use. [5]

Among adults, a study that examined the risk of psychiatric disorders among individuals with same-sex partners found that, during the previous 12 months, women with same-sex partners experienced more mental health disorders—such as major depression, phobia, and post-traumatic stress disorder—than did women with opposite-sex partners. Multiple studies have shown that depression and anxiety affect gay men at a higher rate than the general population, and are often more severe for men who remain “in the closet.” Culturally sensitive mental health services that specifically target gay men have been shown to be more effective in the prevention, early detection, and treatment of these conditions.

HIV/AIDS 

In 2006, MSM accounted for 48 percent of the more than 1 million people living with HIV in the United States and accounted for 53 percent of all newly diagnosed HIV infections in the United States. Of young gay men, African-Americans bear the greatest HIV/AIDS burden. More than twice as many gay African Americans ages 13–24 were diagnosed with HIV infection or AIDS in 2006 as their White or Hispanic counterparts. In addition, queer African-Americans and Hispanics were more likely to become infected with HIV at a younger age (13–29 years), whereas their caucasian counterparts were more likely to become infected when they were older (30–39 years).[6]

Because HIV/AIDS attacks the immune system, it causes a lot of damage throughout the body. Not only does it provide a foothold for opportunistic infection and cancer, the virus also triggers a potentially deadly wasting syndrome, painful nerve damage, and even dementia. Finally, in addition to the physical discomforts inflicted by HIV, many people with AIDS also struggle with depression and anxiety. Marijuana, some patients say, eases all of these problems and more.

Medical Marijuana for Symptom Relief

Research on marijuana’s antinausea properties has focused on chemotherapy-induced vomiting in cancer patients. Several different types of antiemetic drugs have been used successfully by both AIDS patients and cancer patients, so there is reason to believe that marijuana could help both groups. Some cancer patients and people with HIV/AIDS who take THC in the form of dronabinol (Marinol) to combat weight loss may also find that it reduces their feelings of nausea. Patients who took the drug in a four-week clinical study showed a trend toward decreased nausea compared with those who took a placebo, as well as a significant increase in appetite.

To date, THC is the only cannabinoid that has been evaluated for its ability to stimulate appetite – counteracting AIDS wasting. Patients who received THC in the form of Marinol in 6 weeks and throughout one year experienced increased appetite while maintaining a stable weight. In addition to appetite stimulation, marijuana-based medicines may prove helpful in treating a variety of painful symptoms associated with AIDS like neuropathic pain, a burning sensation of the skin that occurs spontaneously or is triggered by even the most gentle touch

Medical Marijuana products, besides the prescription Marinol, are available to qualified patients in Florida. These products are helping patients manage their symptoms that have been affecting their day to day lives. To be able to purchase these products, one must be seen by a state-certified Florida Medical Marijuana Doctor.

DocMJ has been involved in the LGBTQ community since it was founded in 2016. Our staff of dedicated and empathetic employees and Physicians are here to create an environment where everyone feels comfortable enough to discuss their issues in order to find the relief they are looking for. Take the first step to getting your medical marijuana card by taking this quick pre-qualifying survey to see if you might be eligible for a Florida medical marijuana card.

 

[1]https://www.nbcnews.com/feature/nbc-out/gay-teens-least-twice-likely-use-illegal-drugs-study-suggests-n898671

[2] https://www.drugabuse.gov/related-topics/substance-use-suds-in-lgbtq-populations

[3] https://www.womenshealth.gov/faq/lesbian-health.cfm

[4]  Asencio, M., Blank, T., & Descartes, L. (2009). The prospect of prostate cancer: A challenge for gay men’s sexualities as they age. Sexuality Research & Social Policy, 6(4), 38–51.

[5] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3725219/

[6] https://www.cdc.gov/msmhealth/substance-abuse.htm

[7] https://www.eqfl.org/Discrimination

[8] https://www.lgbtagingcenter.org/resources/pdfs/TopHealthIssuesforLGBTPopulationsKit.pdf

[9] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK224400/