The world’s cannabis freedom movement is changing. Groups always change as they grow. Whether subculture or activism, group dynamics mean nothing stays the same. There are always disagreements within any progressive movement about what their goals are, how they should act, and whose ideas or opinions they should accept. As those movements grow, so do the disagreements.

Groups — from Ideals to Personal Ideas

As activist goals come nearer to being reached, other aims are brought in. From there, groups find themselves arguing over what they stand for beyond their collective goal.

For instance, moderate right-wingers deal with an extreme end that seems to be pushing back and forth between nationalism and fundamentalist religious ideals. Moderate liberals watch as the extreme left fights through “callout culture” and building one’s progressive activist caché by tearing down others.

And that’s not even to say that any particular extreme group is wrong (except the bigoted ones. They’re wrong). But if you are collecting under a simple statement — such as the conservative “small government” or the liberal “personal freedom” — all those further steps can confuse.

Growing — from Crops to Communities

The cannabis community/communities around the world are no different. With the advances that cannabis activists have made globally, and notably (for me) here in North America, disagreements within the cannabis freedom movement are more common.

It has stopped being just about access. People now focus on the kind of culture they hope to see grow within and from their cannabis community.

“Cannabis freedom” is a one-issue movement. It doesn’t describe an entire social policy, so people bring that one issue into their own political stance. Lots of people that are otherwise happy with the socio-political landscape (I’m so sorry for having to use a term like that) just want to add smoking pot to what is accepted culturally, without adding in any other freedoms.

So while cannabis freedom is a progressive movement, that doesn’t mean every activist’s personal politics are necessarily progressive. But of course, I’m interested in social progress. And that’s where what’s happening in the pot community overlaps with what’s happening in the queer community.

Activism — from Queerness to Cannabis

While politics continue to polarize opinion and activism on the international platform, we’re heading into Pride Weekend in Vancouver. As with many official Pride festivals, recently there’s been criticism of the Vancouver Pride Society’s (VPS’s) direction and decisions for the parade, especially concerning police.

The VPS puts on events throughout June’s Pride Month, but our official festival is always the August long weekend. It commemorates GATE’s first forays into public representation, rather than the Stonewall Riots of a few years before. (Or the Toronto Bathhouse Riots that occurred at about the same time.) It’s somewhat a memory of positive demands for inclusion and justice. Rather than a specific reaction to targeting, violence, and criminalization of human behaviour. 

Many people view queer oppression as being over here and it’s all celebration.

So while many people and petitions support the Black Lives Matter movement here, some of Vancouver’s LGBTQ+ community objects to their requests. Namely, they don’t want to remove official police representation from within the parade. And the VPS has sided with including the VPD.

I’ve heard every reasoning from “there are no black people in Vancouver” (objectively false) to “Vancouver Police (VPD) aren’t racist so it doesn’t matter here” (demonstrably false) to “by excluding cops, we’re being as bad as our oppressors” (logically unsustainable). These statements are usually from queer people not of typically targeted racial groups.

Expectations — from Pot to Progress

People that bring up statistics showing that Vancouver isn’t the ultimate Lotus Land aren’t looked upon nicely. White queer Vancouverites are separating themselves from queer Vancouverites of colour based on ease and their political needs. And even ignoring the real problems still faced by people of colour, pretending (white) LGBTQ people are completely safe now — that the police are on “our side” — ignores how easily laws and policies change.

A similar situation is growing in the cannabis freedom movement.

We all have different experiences and needs. Our reasons for using cannabis stretch from “I like pot more than booze” to “I need medical cannabis for quality of life.” We all agree that cannabis should be accessible to adult Canadians, but we don’t all agree on what other rights adult Canadians should have.

The West Coast/Vancouver cannabis freedom movement has already started splitting, when it comes to accepting LGBTQIA+.

We’re on the side of “live your life and we’ll stand by your right to live” officially at Twelve High Chicks. But we’re also willing to consider other views if they don’t lead to other people being killed.

But for some reason (because we’re stoned?) many progressive potheads think our opinions about the world stage are what other potheads think. That’s not correct. There are pot-smoking fundamentalist Christians, bud-growing anti-fa, left-wing medical patients, and right-wing pot parents. Still, we can agree on basics:

“Cannabis isn’t bad, sometimes it’s very good, and other times it’s vitally necessary.”

Push for that together. Even work with others in the cannabis freedom movement that disagree with the rest of your politics. But don’t stop also pushing for what else you need just to placate those who’re fine with what they have.