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We’re Queer, But Are We Really Here? Queers in Cannabis CultureOctober 9, 2018
Disclaimer: Keep out of reach of children. For use only by adults 21 years of age and older.
Secular cannabis use has had a profound effect on Western culture in the last five decades, regardless of prohibition. From physical expression to digital media, there are thousands of stark examples of weed’s influence across artistic and entrepreneurial landscapes. Stoner films, clothing brands, magazines, comedians who literally get paid to smoke weed on stage—what was once considered counterculture is now the mainstream, and legalization has only created a snowball effect.
As we discussed in “The Very Queer History Behind Cannabis Legalization” back in August, the legalization movement had a huge grounding thanks to the gay rights movement and medicinal necessity. There is absolutely no doubt that LGBTQIA+ activists and cannabis users have had a monumental impact on legislation, but where have their voices existed within the culture? Reflecting on and analyzing the prominent figures within the current culture reveals a huge lack of diversity. As legalization progressed, we lost the queer connection along the way, and most artists that have been able to emerge in the last couple of years continue to face obstacles, especially homophobia, in what has always been a cisgender playing field. Despite this, there are a handful of content creators that are trying to break the mold.
Arend Richard, aka “The Gay Stoner”
Arend Richard is a YouTube creative who recognized a startling lack of representation in stoner online personalities early on in his career and decided to create content that represented his community of gay stoners. He’s extremely candid in all his videos, giving honest product reviews and viewers a wide window into his personal life and medical issues, and he really tries to connect people to his lived experience as a gay man.
“I’ve had so many people comment and say, ‘I really always hated gay people, and you are the first person to make me understand [them],’” he said. “It’s that fundamental. They just don’t understand it, and I’m the first person to put it terms that make sense to them.” 
Providing people who come from a different background with this perspective is vital, but being visible and available to people who experience the same marginalization is impactful. Connecting through cannabis is a great way to bridge these communities.
As a YouTube personality, Richard faced a number of issues with product partnership in the industry and collaboration with other weed-centric YouTube channels. His inquiries and proposals went mostly ignored, and he felt “that the majority of cannabis brands would never work with the LGBTQ community..”  This led him to create TheWeedTube with other cannabis creatives who were having their content taken down from YouTube. WeedTube appears to be a sufficient platform for Richard and other WeedTubers, a place where these creators can collaborate and thrive together. As sponsors and product manufacturers expand their horizons, seeing Richard and WeedTube as a viable resource would only make sense as they continue to develop a serious presence in online culture.
Chelsea Steiner is a screenwriter/blogger/sex educator churning out some resourceful articles on topics like how to make a tampon pipe and what strains to smoke while trying to survive this shitbag government. Over the last few years, Steiner’s sexuality and its interconnectedness with cannabis has always been an important facet of her identity.
“Weed and women seemed to occupy the same side of my personality I desperately didn’t want people to know about. That clandestine, hidden away part of me that I felt was broken and unfixable… When I came out of the closet/hot box, things started to change. Being queer wasn’t some secret identity I had to be ashamed of. I told one person. Then two. Then everyone… I felt the walls of my own making crumble around me and I embraced myself for who I was.”
Steiner is also the writer/director of Thank You Come Again, a queer sex-positive web series based on her experiences working at the Pleasure Chest, a queer-owned business and staple in sex-positive culture in Los Angeles since the 1970s. The series is cheeky and peeks inside the sex lives of characters that aren’t often displayed on screen beyond supporting roles. The team is predominantly made up of women, people of color, and LGBTQIA+ people and is shot inside the real Pleasure Chest LA. Steiner’s written and digital content is raw and relatable. Her dedication to portraying her authenticity is necessary.
Alec White is a photographer hailing from San Francisco and currently based in Seattle. His portfolio contains a range of queer artists and celebrities including Jinkx Monsoon, Biqtch Puddin, Peaches Christ, BenDeLaCreme, Abbey Roads, and more. He captures a lot of drag show action shots and various performances on social media, but his portraiture is very honest and intimate. White doesn’t shy away from direct profiles, patterns or bright colors, and these elements make bold statements. Back in May of this year, he released his first e-book titled Naked Boys Smoking Weed—a collection of 25 images showing just that—and the digital book only costs $5. The duality between the masculinity and femininity displayed by the subjects in these photographs is equally as mesmerizing as the smoke. The vulnerability of the naked men captured is a wonderful high-artistic approach to cannabis consumption and opens up newpossibilities for the future of editorial photography within the industry.
Where do we go now?
There are a small number of other personalities who have been interviewed by the media recently—including activists Laganja Estranja and Buck Angel—but honestly, LGBTQIA+ creatives in the context of cannabis culture documentation are few and far between. As mentalities shift and the industry progresses, questions of representation emerge; even though we’ve been exposed to cannabis culture for so long, who has truly been able to not only benefit but thrive in their expression without consequence? We need more content creators in all mediums, we need more people of color, and we need more than cisgender straight white men if we want cannabis culture to progress in a dynamic and effective way. Empowerment and autonomy have never been afforded to the LGBTQIA+ community, and these ideals strongly shape identity and relatability. Content and art exist as vehicles to better understand who we are and how we want to be seen by society at large. It has been proven time and time again that diversity drives industries. Broader representation leads to better branding, better products, and a better market. How can we intersect cannabis and queer culture? How do we evolve beyond the gatekeepers and pave way for those who have been severely underrepresented? Give space, legitimize queer voices, and equalize. Time will tell where the industry will land, but one thing is for certain: we have an opportunity to cultivate and lift up more queer artistry across the spectrum.