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Academics, activists, and candy kush: Nonprofit to bring first-ever LGBTQ cannabis conference to Emerald City

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Shanita Blumt — Photo courtesy of the artist
Shanita Blumt — Photo courtesy of the artist

There aren't many conversations happening on LGBTQ equity in the cannabis community. The Full Spectrum wants to change that.

This weekend, the Seattle-based nonprofit The Full Spectrum — whose mission is to enhance and sustain LGBTQ diversity, inclusion, and access within the world of cannabis — will host its first annual conference, focusing on the complexities and challenges in the LGBTQ cannabis community. The Full Spectrum states that this conference will be the first of its kind to ever be held.

"Cannabis was legalized in direct response to the AIDS crisis by queer people," Neil Lequia, Full Spectrum's founder and board president, told the SGN. Lequia also noted that LGBTQ adults are twice as likely to use cannabis than the general population, adding, "We are doing what we can to make sure that we are not forgotten within the industry realm as well as the patient realm, and everyday consumers as well."

LüChi — Photo courtesy of the artists  

The conference will be held virtually, with free streaming access on YouTube. VIP passes are also available for $50 and will include access to the Purple Party Smoke Sesh on Friday, and smoke breaks, networking sessions, and social hours throughout both Saturday and Sunday.

Friday will mark the conference's kickoff, with the Purple Party entertainment, featuring performances from Los Angeles—based drag artist Shanita Blunt and Seattle-based drag duo LÜCHI!?.

Topics to be discussed on Saturday and Sunday vary widely and include panels on LGBTQ entrepreneurship in the cannabis industry, HIV and cannabis, and Trans and Nonbinary people in cannabis, as well as workshops, including one on "rainbow-washing," or when companies publicly show support for the LGBTQ community but fail to do the same in their private practices.

Opening keynote speaker John Entwistle, Jr. and closing keynote speaker Amber Senter — Photos courtesy of The Full Spectrum  

Those in attendance will include activists, academics, and business owners from across the United States and Canada. California-based activist John Entwistle Jr. will present the opening keynote on Saturday morning. Entwistle co-authored the state's Proposition 215, the nation's first medical marijuana legislation signed into law, and co-founded the San Francisco Cannabis Buyers Club, both with his partner Dennis Peron.

Amber Senter will present the closing keynote on Sunday. Senter is executive director of SuperNova Women, a nonprofit whose mission is to empower women of color to become self-sufficient shareholders in the cannabis economy.

"We're just really grateful to have a lot of amazing individuals come share their stories with us," Lequia said.

Local aspects
The Full Spectrum has also worked to include local activists, businesses, and organizations in the conference. Tacoma-based activist and Deep Green Extracts founder Grandma Cat Jeter will be a featured panelist in the "LGBTQ Legends of Cannabis" session. Several local organizations and businesses, including the Cannabis Alliance, Heylo Labs, and Viridian Staffing, have also partnered with The Full Spectrum.

"We were the second state to legalize, which was great, because we were pioneering the efforts. But we didn't really understand the best practices at the time to make it a fair and equitable space on the market for people of color, who have been disproportionately affected by the war on drugs," Lequia said.

Conversations on how to generate equity in the cannabis industry are reemerging in the state, including recently introduced WA Senate bills 5706 and 5796. SB 5706 aims to fund a cannabis social equity assistance grant program; SB 5796 aims to restructure cannabis revenue appropriations with transparency and accountability, and to increase community infrastructure and investment.

"It's a bit like sticking toothpaste back in the tube, but yeah, I'm glad that there is a focus on that as well," Lequia added. "And I hope that one day, we'll have equity programs that also include LGBTQ voices."