|Photo: The Wow Report
|Dennis Peron is co-author of Prop 215, which legalized medical marijuana in California
Dennis Peron, the “father of medical marijuana” who co-authored Proposition 215, the 1996 ballot initiative which legalized medical cannabis in California, has suffered a stroke, reports Joe Eskenazi at SF Weekly.
“That’s why I didn’t give a speech at the Hemp Expo,” Peron, 65, told the Weekly. The cannabis guru and gay rights activist said he suffered the stroke about a month ago and underwent an operation Sunday to “unclog my artery.”
Peron in the 1990s came to serve as a figurehead for the cannabis legalization movement, and was highly influential in the debate in California, thus helping to change the political atmosphere surrounding marijuana in the United States.
A Long Island native, Peron served the Air Force in Vietnam and afterward moved to San Francisco’s Castro District in 1969, where he sold marijuana and ran the Big Top pot supermarket out of his home in the 1970s.
He opened the Church Street Compassion Center in 1993, the very first “pot club” in the United States, which became the legendary San Francisco Cannabis Buyers Club in 1995, a year before Prop 215 legalized medical pot.
|“I do not know the future, but I do know that for one brief moment in history there was the Cannabis Buyer’s Club and it was about Love!” ~ Dennis Peron
The Cannabis Buyers Club was raided by law enforcement in 1978 and again in 1990. In 1996, Dan Lungren, then California Attorney General, ordered another bust of Peron’s club, but Prop 215 passed soon thereafter, and the club reopened.
The Grassroots Party of Minnesota fielded Peron as their first Presidential nominee in the 1996 election. He received 5,400 votes nationally.
Peron ran against his old nemesis, Lungren, in the Republican primary for California governor. Lungren beat Peron in the primary but then lost the general election to Democrat Gray Davis.
Peron has famously said
that “All use of marijuana is medical use.”
The passage of medical marijuana laws helped to change the image of cannabis from something used by “long-hair, hippie crazy” people to a drug of the middle class, according to Peron.
“It helped make [marijuana use]more benevolent,” Peron said. “We turned the tide.”
Peron said the thrust of his work now is ballot measures to normalize marijuana distribution, so “yhou can get it at Walgreen’s” at affordable prices.
According to Peron, enforcing existing marijuana laws costs the criminal justice system a fortune.
Peron said he joined the effort to legalize marijuana when his partner, who was dying of AIDS, found that cannabis helped him, even when chemotherapy didn’t.
“When he died, I decided to dedicate my life to alleviate the suffering” of others, Peron said.
“I opened the [Cannabis Buyers Club] to serve the dying,” Peron said. “It was in the belly of the beast. The cops and the mayor supported me.”