We interviewed some Dutchie team members and asked them about the meaning of Pride and how it relates to their cannabis careers. As a result, they have embraced their true identities in their personal lives and at work. The collective hope is that others can express themselves in the same vein for the cannabis world at large.
Rolling Stone seems to think this change is well underway. The magazine’s article High Pride: Pot Industry Embraces LGBTQ Culture, Everyone Wins illustrates the similarities in the cannabis and LGBTQ+ Pride movements:
“‘Cannabis and queers have always shared in the fight for respect and legal recognition, which inherently links the two communities,’ explains Sophie St. Thomas, a queer sex and cannabis writer, and author of Finding Your Higher Self: Your Guide to Cannabis for Self Care.”
Just as the Pride movement fights for rights, so does the cannabis movement. Both communities want something that should be simple -- not to have to hide their lifestyle.
Being out at work
Being out at work starts with embracing who you are and allowing that confidence to build. According to Tony Rudeen, the Lead Product Manager at Dutchie, coming out is a process. It's portrayed like one single moment, but instead, it is a series of moments. He says as these experiences go on, and you come into that new identity, you become a more "self-possessed person." In this sense, you feel newfound freedom and confidence in yourself, and that feeling sheds light on other areas of your existence.
Enies Burton, Senior Manager of Customer Success, agrees with this sentiment:
“I actually love being out at work…it is 1,000% easier and less stressful for me. It has also created a boost to my self-confidence. That boost has had a positive impact on my work and work relationships. So it’s been a net positive experience.”
Enies has embraced bringing his whole, authentic self to work. He shared some insights about his career, the cannabis industry, and the overlapping tech industry:
“I am a big believer in things happening for a reason and the Universe playing a big part in one’s path forward. However, looking back, I would tell myself to calm down, be 100% you, and always go hard in the paint regarding what I want. There is no space for fear! LGBTQ+ people make up business owners, growers, and consumers. LGBTQ+ people should be visible across the industry at large.”
Chip Decker, Dutchie’s Shipping Manager, has had his own unique career journey -- and, while grateful for his experiences, he has still experienced some hurdles:
“I have lived in some very progressive areas, so I can say it has not affected my career course. I understand I am very fortunate to be able to say that. Being a member of the LGBTQ community in the workplace does sometimes feel like I can be placed in a box. Working in retail, I felt that sometimes customers expected a stereotype when working with me. When I switched to working in City Offices that all changed because I realized how nice it was to be treated as just another employee. Being at Dutchie, I am wanting to challenge that box and work outside of the walls of the box by trying new things...Dutchie allows me to be myself.”
In trying new things, Chip is active in the internal events that Dutchie offers:
“My favorite memory so far has been taking on Dutchie’s Got Talent. This is the first event that encompassed all three branches of the Dutchie family and allowed me to learn so much about our new co-workers. This event also allowed me to try something I have never done before...dressing up as Dolly Parton. Being comfortable with myself dressed in clothes I don’t normally wear was a bit scary, but the reception of the video has been rewarding for me. I can express myself around my coworkers without having to worry about my sexuality. That is a really big step that I think we should all understand is a big deal.”
Pride isn’t all glitter
Another Dutchie team member expresses what Pride means to her and the misconceptions around what Pride truly means. However, like Chip, in some areas of her life she used to feel like being gay led to others projecting stereotypes and putting her in a box. Her progress is inspiring:
“Sometimes it feels like we have to perform Pride.” Courey Elliot, Software Engineer III expresses, with an element of vulnerability in her voice. “We have to put on a good show of making gay fun and palatable for acceptance purposes. And I don't have a coming out story that's happy or warm, or even barely tolerant. My entire history is awkward, uncomfortable, messy, and unfortunate...I don't know how to perform Pride because my story is not pretty. If Pride means glitter and glam -- how can I perform that if I haven't experienced it for myself? Then, I remembered where Pride came from. It's a ferocious, desperate fight. A gritty, subversive act meant to ignite change. Pride was not pretty...and that's when I stopped struggling.”
Pride is “messy” because it originated as a fight against the oppressors. The Stonewall Riots were one of the first riots against closed-minded thought-leaders and law enforcers. This event on June 28th, 1969, sparked an entire liberation movement.
The liberation movement spurred a larger discussion on the idea of love and acceptance. In reality, people just wanted the freedom to be their true selves. When Sunray Bernal, Support Expert I, expressed that feeling to their mom, they were accepted as their mom helped them interpret a more inclusive idea of love:
"My mom explained to me what love was and what it was like to feel love. She explained that it was completely normal...and that the exclusive friends would hang out because they had some type of love for each other. She told me it was okay to love another boy if I wanted to, or another girl..."
Igniting change is scary, but if the Pride movement can break down barriers and open minds, people can begin to understand the nuances of love.
Proud to represent cannabis
Organic representation of Pride in cannabis is significant to the community that puts their authentic selves first. The High Pride article provides clarity: “while the cannabis and LGBTQ communities still share marginalized, ‘outsider’ statuses, that too doesn’t automatically guarantee authentic alignment.”
The authenticity of brands promoting Pride depends on who they are benefitting. Pride-branded products in both cannabis and typical retail should represent normalization in the community. More than just generating awareness, many of the most inspiring brands reinforce their stance by contributing a portion of proceeds to well-vetted LGBTQ+ organizations.
For example, Venice, CA brand Stone Road “is donating 10% of its June profits to the LGBTQ Freedom Fund, a group that pays bail for members of the LGBTQ community in U.S. jails and immigration facilities.” If donations aren’t quite in your brand’s budget, your store could source its products from an LGBTQ-owned brand.
Mr. Moxey’s Mints, a brand headquartered in Portland, OR, is happy to give back during Pride. Their recurring “Giving Mint” has different charitable focuses for each variation, but they always make sure to do one for Pride. Last year, a portion of their proceeds went to the Q Center in Portland.
Account Executive, Taylor Scoma, mentions one of her favorite brands that does a fantastic job of representing queer culture: “Lady Jays by Ladies of Paradise are some of my favorite cannabis products to date. The branding is super femme and queer, and they get lots of their flower from a sustainable farm here in Oregon. They donate to cannabis equity organizations and their goal is to make cannabis more inclusive for women and minorities and I just love everything about their vibe.”
Other opportunities for cannabis companies to make a meaningful impact during Pride month include a more personal experience for employees, investing in relevant events, and education. Dutchie, for example, represents Pride through internal spotlights and events. Our events for Pride month include a Zoom Pride panelist board of professionals and their moving testimonials. We also have a Pride celebration planned, and the grand finale: a rousing game of Bingo hosted by the glamorous Miss Richfield.
We acknowledge that there is still a lot of work to be done in both the cannabis and technology worlds. As our Help Desk Administrator, Nadine Aquino, states: “The tech industry still has a lot of work to do in terms of diversity and equality (as do a lot of other industries). There are a lot of good things happening, though, that need to continue: summits, networking for LGBTQ+ in tech, speakers and leaders who are out and in tech coming to other companies to talk about the importance of inclusion.”
We appreciate all the inspiration from our flourishing Dutchie crew members and encourage those who are interested in joining our community to grow with us.