Dennis Peron, co-author of Proposition 215 and a catalyst for the earliest efforts to legalize medical cannabis in America, passed away Jan. 27 after a battle with lung cancer.
Decades ago, Peron returned from serving in the Vietnam War, and smuggled two pounds of cannabis back to America. He quickly became immersed in the spirit of San Francisco and the high prevalence of cannabis. Peron became friends with pot-friendly San Francisco Supervisor Harvey Milk before Milk’s highly-publicized assassination in 1978, which introduced him to politics.
Saddened to hear of the passing of my dear friend, role model, Founder and Hero of the medical cannabis movement, a man who loved cannabis & his friends that he stood up and took police bullets to defend them: Dennis Peron. Honored to have fought by his side. Glad he saw victory.
— Steve Deangelo (@stevedeangelo) January 29, 2018
But AIDS would soon devastate the people of San Francisco and become Peron’s biggest focus. “I came to San Francisco to find love and to change the world,” Mr. Peron said last year at event honoring his lifetime achievements. “I found love, only to lose him through AIDS. We changed the world.”
During the ‘80s, Peron and his lover Jonathan West quickly discovered that cannabis was effective against battling the symptoms of AIDS, most notably wasting syndrome (death by loss of appetite) and inflammation. West died of AIDS in 1990, but that only fueled Peron’s desire to legalize medical cannabis for ailments like AIDS and cancer.
Shortly after, Peron opened up the San Francisco Cannabis Buyers Club, first public marijuana dispensary in America. While running the dispensary, the club was raided several times, and once, Peron was shot in the leg.
Peron’s dispensary set the template for countless other dispensaries that would form in multiple states over the year. He co-authored Proposition 215, and it was passed in 1996, making California the first state to legalize medical cannabis.
Peron’s significance in the history of medical cannabis cannot be overstated, and his loss will be felt among cannabis’ biggest champions. “Saddened to hear of the passing of my dear friend, role model, Founder and Hero of the medical cannabis movement, a man who loved cannabis & his friends that he stood up and took police bullets to defend them: Dennis Peron,” Steve DeAngelo tweeted. “Honored to have fought by his side. Glad he saw victory.”