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Cannabis Pioneers: Who is Dennis Peron?

This is an ongoing series 'Cannabis Pioneers', paying homage to the many cannabis activists that paved the way to bring cannabis back to the world - which is an ongoing issue for many here in the UK. Episode 3: Dennis Peron. I hope you enjoy.


Who is Dennis Peron?

There would not be any medical cannabis right now without Dennis Peron. As a homosexual guy living in San Francisco, USA at the time of the AIDS epidemic, Dennis saw how the federal government virtually abandoned his community, which had been destroyed by the disease. Many AIDS patients turned to cannabis to assist reduce the pain that came with the disease since there was no hope for respite in sight.

While leading the campaign for Proposition P, a measure to legalise medical cannabis in the city of San Francisco, Dennis came up with the term "medical marijuana." Dennis opened the San Francisco Buyers Club, the world's first cannabis dispensary, when Prop P was overwhelmingly approved, even though cannabis was still illegal in the state of California.


Dennis eventually went one step farther and co-authored Proposition 215, which legalised medicinal cannabis throughout the Golden State. The first stone to fall in the campaign to eliminate prohibition was Proposition 215, and without it, there wouldn't be any of the legal cannabis we enjoy today. There is a tiny handful of committed and ardent cannabis advocates, like Dennis Peron, to thank if you are able to ingest legal cannabis. He was a campaigner who persistently fought for access to cannabis for medicinal use, starting with the San Francisco LGBT community during the height of the AIDS crisis in the 1980s and 1990s. He is widely recognised as the "Father of Medical Cannabis" in California. In 1990, Jonathan West, his lover, passed away from AIDS.


You and every cannabis consumer in the world owe him an obligation of gratitude, even if you don't know his name. I'll start from the beginning as I'm getting ahead of myself.


Harvey Milk, the first openly homosexual politician in California who was later slain, and Mary Jane Rathbun, or Brownie Mary, who gained notoriety for making and distributing cannabis delicacies to San Francisco's AIDS sufferers, were among the flamboyant friends Peron retained. Later on, he wed John Entwistle, another medicinal cannabis enthusiast.


Peron was raised in Long Island, New York, after being born in the Bronx. Peron returned to the United States with two pounds of cannabis that had been smuggled after serving in the Air Force during the Vietnam War. Soon after, he relocated to San Francisco's Castro District and joined Abbie Hoffman's Youth International Party (Yippies). In 1991, he helped pass San Francisco's Proposition P, a law that permitted city residents to use medicinal cannabis without being prosecuted.

Violence, cannabis, and the path to legalisation

The first open medical cannabis shop in the United States, San Francisco's Cannabis Buyers Club, was co-founded by Peron, Brownie Mary, and a few other individuals in 1994. However, the Cannabis Buyers Club was not like the modern, spotless, and legal cannabis stores that consumers are accustomed to. The collective was essentially selling illegal cannabis in broad daylight and was frequently threatened with harassment, arrest, and even violence (Peron was shot in the leg by a San Francisco police officer).


Peron's work on California's Proposition 215 is arguably his most well-known contribution to the contemporary cannabis scene. It is believed to have paved the way for the passing of Prop 64 in 2016, which legalised cannabis for adults 21 and older in the Golden State.


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He did not, however, endorse, either literally or symbolically, Prop 64 or Prop 19 before it. Peron held that all cannabis users, whether they are aware of it or not, are doing so for therapeutic purposes and that there is no such thing as "recreational" cannabis.


In 2016, Peron said to Merry Jane, "There is no recreational cannabis. They made it up. What they're trying to do is split us by saying there are people having fun and there are people medicating. "But individuals who use marijuana don't get 'high,' they get normal; the government is attempting to stigmatise these people because they're having a good time by claiming that they are getting high.

In the "Time for Hemp" podcast, he expressed his strong opposition to cannabis taxes, saying, "In California and other states, medicine is not taxed. Now all of a sudden our medicine has to be taxed. And I don't get this tax. And I know it sounds good to say, "Let's just tax our way out of this thing. But you can't. This is a moral crusade."


At the age of 72, Peron passed away from lung cancer; he is survived by his husband, John Entwistle, a significant activist in the gay rights and cannabis legalisation movements. Peron has left behind an important and groundbreaking legacy. In his later years, he ran a cannabis farm in northern California and received official recognition from the San Francisco Board of Supervisors for his activism.


Dennis was a pioneer in the cannabis legalisation movement and the creator of the nation's first medical cannabis clinic.

Dennis, who saw the injustice of having sick people suffer when there was medication to ease the pain, is forever deserving of thanks on behalf of the medical cannabis sector in California and, by extension, the rest of the globe.


When a military transport carrying soldiers from Vietnam docked in San Francisco in 1969, Dennis Peron opted to stay. He then located accommodation, unzipped his duffel bag, and began dealing with the kilo of South East Asian cannabis.


When homosexuality was extensively discriminated against across the nation at the time, he picked San Francisco because of the freedom he found there. San Francisco also had a sizable gay community, which had a significant impact on views, politics, and society.


H signed the contract for his first book, 'Marijuana Growers Guide', there in 1973. A few years later, he opened a café called "The Island," which had a nice ambience and cannabis usage as a rule, downstairs from his cannabis supermarket, which was on the second story.


One of the first medical cannabis activists in the United States was Dennis Peron.

In 1978, Dennis drafted Proposition W and collected enough signatures to place it on the ballot.


"WE, THE PEOPLE OF SAN FRANCISCO, DEMAND THAT THE DISTRICT ATTORNEY AND THE CHIEF OF POLICE DISCONTINUE THE ARRESTING AND PROSECUTING OF PEOPLE FOR POSSESSING, TRANSFERRING, OR GROWING MARIJUANA."

As a San Francisco Supervisor (City Councilman) who began his political career by gathering signatures for the initiative, Harvey Milk would later be assassinated by another Supervisor who was a right-wing, anti-gay zealot.


Dennis witnessed the relief cannabis gave Jonathan as the AIDS virus decimated his body, including the nausea, anorexia, and agony in his joints and nerves. Dennis' life partner, Jonathan West, passed away from AIDS in 1993.


The first ever medical cannabis dispensary in the United States was established by Dennis Peron.


Patients line up at the pharmacy of The Cannabis Buyers Club, which was created by Dennis Peron, Brownie Mary Rathbun, Dale Geiringer, Beth Moore, Jason Patrick Menard, Gerry Leatherman, Richard Eastman, and Dr. Tod Mikur. Patients line up at the pharmacy counter of The Cannabis Buyers Club, which was established in 1994 in San Francisco, California, by Dennis Peron, Brownie Mary Rathbun, Dale Geiringer, Beth Moore, John Entwhistle, Jason Patrick Menard, Gerry Leatherman, Richard Eastman, and Dr. Tod Mikuria.



The Buyers Club by Dennis Peron

He created the first medicinal dispensary in the United States, The Cannabis Buyers Club, on Church Street in the Castro District, the city's most overtly homosexual neighbourhood, after realising how much cannabis had benefited his dying partner.


Dennis was literally regarded as an angel, giving reprieve and comfort to the sick and needy, while knowing he was taking a risk when he opened the business, which was an instant success and within a few months had attracted more than 5,000 medical patients.


The Buyers Club provided as a communal centre and living space for many of the patients who lived in SROs and frequently lost their jobs and friends when they become ill. It also gave patients access to cannabis.


Tom Ammiano, who is currently a member of the California Assembly and recently presented a plan to legalise and tax cannabis in the state of California, cut the ribbon at the opening of Dennis' club when he was serving on the San Francisco Board of Education.


The first medical cannabis store in the United States, "The Cannabis Buyers Club," opened with a speech by Tom Ammiano, who is presently a member of the California Assembly.

The first medical cannabis store in the United States, "The Cannabis Buyers Club," opened with a speech by Tom Ammiano, who is presently a member of the California Assembly.

Dennis was a co-author of Proposition 215, California's Medical Marijuana Initiative, which legalised cannabis possession and cultivation for the first time in 1996.


The California Attorney General eventually shut down The Cannabis Buyers Club.

Dennis Peron always grew his own cannabis because he felt everyone should have the freedom to do so. Photo of Garden Purple Kush bud from his garden, 1994.


The damn had broken: hundreds of new medical dispensaries sprung up to service the patients, and now there are thousands of dispensaries in California. The California Attorney General was another ultra-right wing politician.


Dennis simply didn't have the motivation to be a businessman and never re-opened his dispensary. He was more of a social worker and social innovator.


In the home he had transformed into an oasis of greenery, comfort, and hospitality, he resided in the Castro District of San Francisco.


Dennis has always been a strong proponent of organic farming and patient autonomy.


Dennis didn't rely on the generosity of medical dispensaries and growers to provide him with his medication; instead, he cultivated it himself.


Clones are easily accessible, you can buy them at a dispensary, friends and neighbours exchange them, or give them away. There is a broad number of types available, therefore his garden contains several well-known species.


Even though Dennis' garden wasn't the most effective or prolific, it remains one of my favourites.


Clones are grown up a bit, and then moved to a larger container in Dennis' grow room, which is crowded with plants on the floor and shelves along the walls, in preparation for growing them outside.


The naked light bulb lights the whole room, which is packed with plants on the floor and shelves along the walls. Dennis' grow room was used to prepare plants for growing outside. Clones are grown up a little, and then moved to a larger container.


Once they are big enough, Dennis transplants his clones into pots that range in size from about 1-12 gallons to five gallons. Dennis begins his clones in rockwool in a little room to the side of the home.


He preferred to plant in portable containers since he could easily move them into sunny regions of the deck and control their flowering cycle by transferring them into darkness.


The time of day and the season affect the sun's angle and, consequently, the sunny regions.


Most of Dennis Peron's plants were in tiny pots that could be relocated to their inside shelter each evening, where they were positioned at various elevations to catch the sunshine.


The plants were enjoying the early afternoon sun when I visited Dennis in 1994; one set was on a specially built shelf along the deck fence, and another group was seated on a table on the sunny deck.


Plants emerge from the closet during the day to sunbathe on a shelf in the sun.


Every night, he put his plants in a little chamber or a plastic-covered outdoor shelter to shield them from stray light and San Francisco's chilly nighttime air, which may dip from high 70s during the day to the low 50s or even 40s at night.


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His containers had the bottoms removed so the roots could spread out onto a 14-gallon tray.


The fertiliser and soil brands vary since friends frequently provide stuff. All the plants were compelled to blossom while they were young so they remained under two feet tall and extremely manageable.


The winds change around Labor Day to allow the sun to shine through. September is the warmest month of the year in the city with warm, clear weather. The cool summer weather delays growth and maturity so varieties take a 20–30% longer to grow and mature here. San Francisco is cool during the summer because the cold air from the sea meets the warm inland air there, creating fog.


These mild conditions make it much less likely to suffer environmental damage because the plants don't suffer from container burn and their water needs are much lower than plants growing in hot conditions.


Due to the mild climate in San Francisco at the time, Dennis' plants were in all stages of development, from clones developing into young plants to plants close to harvest.


Plants can be grown all year round, especially in this situation, where plants get sunlight during the day and protection from the cold air at night. The daytime temperature rarely falls below 40 degrees throughout the year, and even in winter the temperature can rise into the mid 70's.


If the plants are not given additional light to break up the lengthy dark period, they will begin to flower in late September. Once the plants are tall enough, they are then moved outside to flower under the lengthy regimen of uninterrupted darkness.


In addition to having a lot of healthy plants, Dennis' garden was also full of historical significance and a small tribute to his significance in the struggle to end cannabis prohibition.



Peron also appeared on the front cover of High Times magazine. A true pioneer for cannabis and a real loss to the world.


I hope you enjoyed the article! Be sure to check back for more!

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