The Medical Marijuana Movement was at a Standstill until AIDS Activists Stepped In

The Medical Marijuana Movement was at a Standstill until AIDS Activists Stepped In

“Some people with AIDS have a motto: ‘Die high.’”

That was the first sentence of a 1990 Washington Post article titled, “Medical Necessity and Marijuana Use”.

For years following the emergence of the AIDS epidemic in 1980, there was little knowledge as to what the virus was and how to suppress it. AIDS was a death sentence, and while smoking marijuana didn’t stop the virus from destroying the body, it did increase the quality of life for one’s last months following diagnosis.

Marijuana helped with nausea and wasting syndrome. Those who smoked marijuana got “the munchies” and were finally able to consume enough calories to no longer look and feel sick.

That, however, was just one of the many medicinal benefits of smoking marijuana.

“I don’t do it to get high,” a 37-year-old man living with AIDS told The Post back in 1990. “I never used marijuana before. I use it to get rid of my headaches.”

During the 80s, there were hardly any resources for people with AIDS (PWA). Research on the virus moved at a glacial pace because the AIDS epidemic coincided with president Reagan entering office. The Reagan administration was not only dedicated to making severe cuts in domestic spending, the president also proudly decried homosexuality, touting the right wing moralism of the Christian Coalition. In fact, during the first four years of the Reagan administration, the epidemic spread like wildfire through the gay community, and Reagan refused to even announce the words “AIDS.”

The callous disregard for the lives of gay and bisexual men was largely what contributed to the lack of research surrounding the virus. That’s why PWA turned to cannabis and began advocating for the right to use medical marijuana legally.

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