As the cannabis community moves forward in an effort to legalize and normalize cannabis, I have found that we often draw energy and learn from experiences that other civil rights groups have pushed, in particular the LGBTQ+ communities who have (arguably) been working much longer for policy change and stigma lifting as well. There seems to be quite a bit of overlap between our communities as we advocate for issues that we are so passionate about, and was thrilled to get the chance to talk with one of the leading activists in the Portland area about just that.
Belinda Carroll is a Comedian, LGBTQ+ activist and the Portland Queer Comedy Festival Co-Founder/Co-Director. Belinda began stand-up comedy in late 2008 and has a list of LGBTQ+ activism too long to list in one article. With the upcoming Festival for 2019 including event sponsors from the Oregon cannabis community and a connection to one of our favorite stoner entertainment platforms, The Gateway Show, I was eager to connect with Belinda about the event and her experience with cannabis.
To give a little background, the Portland Queer Comedy Festival is a nationally renowned stand-up comedy festival taking place over 5 days with comics performing in 6 venues with over 40 shows, including venues such as Funhouse Lounge, Ford Food and Drink, Curious Comedy Theatre, Kickstand Comedy, Rogue Eastside pilot Brewery and more. The venues are conveniently located near one another creating a fun, bar-crawl festival atmosphere. The festival begins next week and is in its 3rd year. Belinda explained that last year they had double the amount of attendees as the first year.
When they started the festival in 2017, the Trump Administration had just come into power and wanted to give others something to restore a sense of hope, that would enrich both comedy and the LGBTQ+ community, and so they planned the festival. Because in times like these, laughter is more important than ever.
Belinda relayed to me that she had a story with cannabis helping her both personally and professionally, and added that she is very supportive of the cannabis movement. So, I jumped on the opportunity to learn more...
LM (Leah Maurer): Sounds like you have a personal story with cannabis, would you mind sharing however much you are comfortable with going on the record about? And your current thoughts on cannabis as medicine?
BC (Belinda Carroll): I do have personal story with cannabis. I quit drinking alcohol four years ago and replaced alcohol with cannabis. Through use of cannabis, I've gotten a lot healthier. I got into hiking and kickboxing, lost 150 pounds and now have co founded a multi-day comedy Festival, in addition to forwarding my own comedy career. I'm a huge proponent for cannabis as medicine. More importantly, I'm a huge advocate for the end of cannabis being listed as a schedule 1 narcotic. It helps millions of people escape the hell that is opiate addiction, heroin addiction, and alcohol abuse and regulate their pain without horrid side effects.
LM: In many cities on the west coast, it seems like the cannabis communities and queer communities have overlapped quite a bit as we have both worked towards our own goals with policy and normalization. Do you think this is also true of Portland?
BC: I think that the queer community and the cannabis community actually have a lot of overlap with the mind set of the people in it. I also think that cannabis, same-gender marriage and trans people have been systematically marginalized in a similar way. They have been vilified as extremely dangerous, a threat and are illegalized, when in fact the opposite is true and acceptance is beneficial to society.
LM: You seem very open to working with people and companies in the cannabis industry here in Oregon for your event(s)...what would you tell other platforms or event managers who still shy away from this emerging industry?
BC: I found working with people in the cannabis industry to be an absolute joy! I feel like it comes down to the same stigma and fear of who will come if you advertise with weed. But awesome people come out. However, I want people who love cannabis to be my shows! In fact, we have a show called the Gateway Show sponsored by Kleen Karma Gardens that is specifically cannabis-themed. CDC Dispensary is also an event sponsor this year.
LM: What are some acts/comics who you are most excited about having at the Festival in 2019?
BC: I'm so excited about so many things. We have Scott Thompson doing a monologue as buddy Cole at Curious Comedy Theater July 17th! Which is a childhood comedy dream come true. We have the amazing Nico Santos, of NBC Superstore, Crazy Rich Asians and he's also originally from Portland! I'm also very excited about Jen Kober, Erin Foley, Sandra Valls! We have such an amazing amazing lineup of so many comedians!
Comedy is the love and our passion of the Portland Queer Comedy Festival, and bringing people the best in LGBTQ+ comedy is their life mission. You can learn more about the festival and purchase tickets here or check out event details here. Hope to see you there!