Remembering Medical Marijuana Pioneer, Dennis Peron


“All marijuana use is medicinal.” —Dennis Peron

After a long battle with lung cancer and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), the father of medical marijuana and cherished activist Dennis Peron passed away yesterday (Jan. 27th) at the San Francisco Veteran’s Administration Health Center at the age of 72.

After a stint in the Air Force during the Vietnam War, Peron moved to San Francisco with a few pounds of pot. As a gay man, San Francisco’s inclusive community drew him in. By the mid-’70s, Peron was running a massive marijuana operation, called The Big Top where customers could fill up on grass from Mexico and Columbia. He was an avid supporter of Harvey Milk, the first openly gay official of a major city; he sat on the San Francisco’s Board of Supervisors in 1977. The part of Peron was played by actor Ted Jan Roberts in the 2008 movie “Milk.”

When Peron lost his partner, Jonathan West to AIDS in 1990, he became an advocate for HIV/AIDs patients who needed safe access to cannabis to ease the disease’s calamitous effects.

Peron founded the medical-marijuana movement in San Francisco nearly three decades ago. Two years after city voters passed his drafting of Prop P, a bill that would legalize medical cannabis in 1991, Peron opened the Cannabis Buyers Club, which by 1996 had over 10,000 members and a large storefront on Market Street.


He and California NORML’s Dale Gieringer wrote the first draft of Prop 215, which would pass with 56% of the vote in 1996, making California the first state to recognize cannabis’ medical benefits.

Since 1996, 29 other states followed California’s lead in legalizing some form of medical use. However, when California voted on full recreational legalization in 2016, Peron opposed the Prop 64 voter initiative. He felt that Prop 64 misrepresented the medicinal properties of marijuana. He predicted that small growers and businesses wouldn’t be able to afford to compete due to regulations and taxation on their products.

Ravaged by cancer, Peron’s life slowly wound down, though he was surrounded by friends and peers to the very end.

January 28, 2018

by Parker Wallace

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Parker is a cannabis enthusiast to the core who shares a keen interest in listening to what others have to say and understanding what’s important to them. Those who know Parker know that his passion for health and wellness runs deep, and his love of Canada even deeper!


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