How Queers and the AIDS Crisis Birthed US Cannabis Legalisation

As part of Queer & Pride Amsterdam 2023, we present a free talk by Lex Pelger on a crucial piece of cannabis history that must not be forgotten.

Date and time: Friday 28th July at 14:00
Location: the Cannabis College

Seating is limited so first come, first served (it is not possible to book in advance).

This event is made possible by our platinum sponsor Sensi Seeds – thank you!


It was San Francisco’s queer community which began the wave of cannabis legalisation that the US is still riding today. Learn how at this free talk.

As one state after another legalises what was formerly known as ‘the devil’s harvest’, the US adult-use cannabis market is expected to reach over $31.8 billion (€28.3 billion) in sales in 2023. People born in 1996 – the year of the very first medicinal cannabis laws – are now turning 27. Memories of California without legal cannabis are rapidly becoming as distant as those of the Netherlands without coffeeshops. But how did it all begin?

When cannabis activism and queer activism are the same

San Francisco actually passed Initiative W, which caused the city’s police to ignore the possession of up to 28 grams of cannabis, in November 1978. This was greatly due to gay rights activist Harvey Milk and cannabis activist Dennis Peron, both outspoken and openly gay men. Following Milk’s assassination in the same month, the Initiative was quietly dropped.

But a decade later, as the AIDS crisis decimated the queer community and cannabis was one of the few things that offered relief from its terrible symptoms, Peron and his fellow campaigners once more led the fight for legalisation.

About Lex Pelger

Writer and lecturer Lex Pelger (he/him) is the author of ‘Anandamide; or, the Cannabinoid’, a graphic novel series about cannabis, the War on Weed and the endocannabinoid system. Uniquely, the series is based on the 1851 novel ‘Moby-Dick; or, the White Whale’.

His background in biochemistry supports his expertise in cannabinoid science and psychedelics. Lex frequently speaks at conferences and universities, makes cannna-education videos on TikTok for CVSciences and hosts The Lex Files podcast about psychoactives, spirituality and science. His company White Whale Creations produces educational content, newsletters, podcasts and science archives. He also offers How-To Guides and personal consultations for using cannabinoids & psychedelics for health. 

You can find him on YouTubeLinkedInTwitter and TikTok or see all of his offerings on his Linktree.

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Dennis Peron(L) and Harvey Milk (R). Image from Brownie Mary’s Marijuana Cookbook & Dennis Peron’s Recipie for Social Change, Hash Marihuana & Hemp Museum collection.

‘Let the bullet that rips through my brain, rip through every closet door in America’

Harvey Milk, in a tape he recorded to be played in the event of his assassination

Register here for our 420 Class: Cannabis Basics

A 30-minute course including a garden visit.


Oudezijds Achterburgwal 124
1012 DT Amsterdam
The Netherlands


Every day at 4:20 PM / 16:20


€ 10,- per person for the 30 minute course.
Booking is advised, but not essential.