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Community & Lifestyle, Grow

Inclusion has become key to resolving the 420, Pride conflict

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Jessica Brown Jun 07, 2018 3:11 pm 193

There has been much debate recently regarding the comparison of the 420 and Pride movements.

An open letter published in April by Paul Therien, Chair and Founder of Q Hall of Fame Canada, addressed concerns that cannabis activist Dana Larsen incorrectly likened 420 to Pride.

“What we want to discuss today is centred around your clear misunderstanding of the Pride movement and the significance that it has for people around the world. The Pride movement was born of the direct and state-sanctioned discrimination of people because of their sexual orientation…it was not a choice that was made,” the letter said.

“Your claims that the 4/20 movement is the same as, or is as important as, the Pride movement dishonours our pioneers, the activists, and the achievements they fought so hard for. You also diminish the very real struggle of people around the world who still live in daily fear, not for a choice that they made, but for being born,” Therien wrote.

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Larsen responded to Therien earlier in May, offering 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,” Larsen wrote. “Obviously there’s 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.”

Larsen went on to mention Dennis Peron, “the father of legal medical marijuana” and a gay rights activist, several cases of human rights violations against cannabis activists and consumers, and that “instead of being offended by comparisons between the cannabis movement and the Pride movement,” the focus should be on the LGBTQ+ community as a source of inspiration.

Daily Hive reached out to Therien via email, who said that he and Larsen communicated over the phone.

“Dana is a well spoken and obviously caring individual that has clearly demonstrated the intent was not meant to be hurtful and that is appreciated,” wrote Therien.

“Dana expressed that the use of the Pride movement, and achieving Gay Marriage was meant to be a sound bite to demonstrate the importance of the continued vigilance for the 4/20 movement. While innocent in the intent, our truth as a community is very different.”

“The movement for medical marijuana was spearheaded by the LGBTQ+ movement during the AIDS crisis, a history that has been forgotten by far too many people. Many in the LGBTQ+ community have expressed that they feel unwelcome and as a result the comparison between 4/20 and Pride rubs many people the wrong way.”

Therien acknowledged “the need for a platform that is inclusive of the LGBTQ+ community” that aligns with the 420 movement and that “the willingness to engage in dialogue and the open support shown in the response to the LGBTQ+ community is a good start to resolving the disparity.”

“I have faith that through the demonstrated leadership and acknowledgement of the history of the 4/20 movement we can start to see change and a more open and inclusive climate. It does mean that we need to see consistent messaging from leadership as well as activities that are authentic in their support.”

Therien concluded his email by stating that “all social movements have an immense opportunity to foster a more open society that values individuals and the differences we bring to the mosaic that is humanity. The most assured way to do this is through respect, dialogue, and a willingness to learn with an open mind.”

You can read Therien’s complete email below:

I certainly appreciate the care and thought that Dana had put into the response, as I am sure that many in the broader community are. Dana is a well spoken and obviously caring individual that has clearly demonstrated the intent was not meant to be hurtful and that is appreciated.

Dana expressed that the use of the Pride movement, and achieving Gay Marriage was meant to be a  sound bite to demonstrate the importance of the continued vigilance for the 4/20 movement. While innocent in the intent, our truth as a community is very different, I will try to explain my perspective.

I cannot speak for all of the LGBTQ+ community but I can tell you that I have received communication from many that support my own statement, and have expressed positive thoughts regarding the response from Dana. I have also received some that were not as supportive. This is the way of the world, we will always have difference of opinion on any topic. The ability to express those opinions and to share them is one of the things that makes Canada such an amazing and diverse country to live in. I believe that the only caveat is that we must also respect others in how we deliver our messages.

The response that I have received in regards to the open letter has, as I mentioned, been varied depending on the persons individual experiences and perspective. While I received many comments of support, I also received some that were of a more hateful nature. Some were openly hostile, while more moderate commentary suggested, as in one example,  that I was “just another queer causing problems for normal people”. Many people that sent me communication from the community also pointed to the transphobic and homophobic commentary of some of the “leadership” of the 4/20 movement. These comments are certainly not the majority, but they do illustrate that there is a divide between the two communities.

The movement for medical marijuana was spearheaded by the LGBTQ+ movement during the AIDS crisis, a history has been forgotten by far too many people. Many in the LGBTQ+ community have expressed that they feel unwelcome and as a result the comparison between 4/20 and Pride rubs many people the wrong way. This is understandable given that for us as individuals, our personal experiences drives our perspectives and how we react to the world around us.

Many in the LGBTQ+ community in Canada still experience significant discrimination, in particular those that are Transgender, or do not conform with gender normative attitudes. Around the world identifying as LGBTQ+ is still very dangerous, and in too many places, life threatening. LGBTQ+ youth are too likely to take their own lives, and too many end up homeless because they are ostracized by their families and communities. To suggest that with Gay Marriage we have defeated the last of our challenges suggests, even if unintentionally, that there are no more problems. That in of itself has the power to harm those that still struggle. Words have immense power and if not used in context and consideration  of the realities faced by many can sometimes be harmful even when the desire was for good.

The LGBTQ+ movement took lessons from the Civil Rights movement and Women’s Liberation movements to understand how to combat discrimination. Those, and many other, powerful movements create a roadmap for all people who are seeking a more inclusive and free society. The people who have struggled for freedom in the past inspire and galvanize future generations and equip them with the knowledge they need to better understand the power of social movements to create change in our world. We may learn from each other, but we must also take care when using other movements to illustrate our own so we do not devalue the immense struggle that was, and for many, still happens.

One analogy that I used in my dialogue with Dana, which I think he understood based on our conversation, was that with anything there are always similarities. I used the example of a Car, a Plane, and a Boat. All have components that are the same, all have value and purpose, but not all of them can fly. We do not try to drive across the Georgia Straight because our cars are not boats. The same is true of social movements, similarities does not mean the same.

Dana and I will likely not always agree and I think that is OK. I believe that the willingness to engage in dialogue and the open support shown in the response to the LGBTQ+ community is a good start to resolving the disparity. Dana acknowledged that there are challenges in the 4/20 movement with regards to attitudes towards the LGBTQ+ community. The position presented in the response to my open letter, and subsequent communication, also shows that Dana appreciates the need for a platform that is inclusive of the LGBTQ+ community.

I know that I learned from my dialogue with Dana and I hope that this was mutual. I have faith that through the demonstrated leadership and acknowledgement of the history of the 4/20 movement we can start to see change and a more open and inclusive climate. It does mean that we need to see consistent messaging from leadership as well as activities that are authentic in their support.

All social movements have an immense opportunity to foster a more open society that values individuals and the differences we bring to the mosaic that is humanity. The most assured way to do this is through respect, dialogue, and a willingness to learn with an open mind.

I would also like to thank Dana for the contribution to the Q Hall of Fame Canada. We are a small organization and financial support is not easy to come by – we are filled with gratitude and thanks for the dialogue, the learning, and the support.

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Jessica Brown
Grow Editor at Daily Hive 🌿❤️️ Lover of knowledge, learner of cannabis. Join me on my journey towards higher education alongside industry experts and leaders. Have a question or story idea about cannabis? Email me: [email protected]

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