With the defeat of Proposition 19 back in November 2010, the measure that hoped to legalize recreational marijuana use in California, discussions abounded within the Los Angeles LGBT community concerning marijuana’s place within gay culture.
Many view pot as a harmless recreational substance, way safer and healthier when compared to its legal drug counterparts of alcohol and tobacco.
But why exactly is this?
Director Susan Cohen of the Los Angeles’ Gay and Lesbian Center’s Health Education and Prevention program admits that as a community we have a “schizophrenic” relationship with the drug.
“Though THC (the active ingredient in marijuana) is not good for our lungs, reduces sperm count in men
and is still believed by many to be a gateway drug… at the same time California law has decriminalized
small amounts of marijuana possession. At the end of the day, crystal meth, alcohol and tobacco use
garner much more concern in the LGBT community as well as the larger community... Still,
it’s good for us to not forget, in growing a community of wellness, marijuana can still be problemmatic,
especially when abused.”
Aside from the known health benefits attributed to the drug, especially those for cancer and AIDS patients, and keeping in mind the substance’s disputed side effects, studies still do not conclusively provide exact details as to the consequences of long-term consumption.
What is known in marijuana studies that have targeted the gay community is that LGBT individuals demonstrate higher substance abuse rates (numbers that often surpass drug use by heterosexuals) and that as a community, stimulants are used well into adulthood.
So what does this mean in regards to gay men and marijuana?
Statistically, marijuana is fairly popular within the gay community. Many feel the drug is harmless and poses next to no threat to one’s overall health and well-being. While this may be relatively true when comparing pot to other aforementioned legalized drugs, i.e., alcohol and tobacco, marijuana smoking still contains levels of risk.
Recent studies have shown a correlation between an aggressive form of testicular cancer and pot smoking, and this number is even higher within the gay community. (Keep in mind that gays exhibit a higher level of reported drug use, 1 in 5, according to one recent study, and that these studies targeted gay men only, all of whom could conceivably develop this form of cancer.)
Also it’s important to keep in mind other factors that influence higher drug use among gay men. Ronald Stall, Ph.D., of the Centers for Disease Control, offers:
“Substance abuse is pervasive among gay men and is so intricately intertwined with epidemics of depression, partner abuse, and childhood sexual abuse that adequately addressing one issue requires attention to the others.”
While studies of marijuana use and its effects will surely continue, it’s best that as a community, and as a city, that is moving towards a more marijuana-friendly environment, that we educate ourselves as best we can, before collectively "lighting up."
For more information on the study linking testicular cancer to smoking pot, please visit www.fhcrc.org.
For one specifically about gay men and pot use, visit: www.thefreelibrary.com.