Dennis Peron, A California Activist And ‘Father Of Medical Marijuana,’ Dies At 72

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Photo Credit: MICHAEL MACOR

Dennis Peron, an activist who was among the first people to argue for the benefits of marijuana for AIDS patients and helped legalize medical pot in California, died Jan. 27 at a hospital in San Francisco. He was 72.

He had lung cancer, the San Francisco Chronicle reported.

Mr. Peron was a driving force behind a San Francisco ordinance allowing medical marijuana — a move that later aided the 1996 passage of Proposition 215 that legalized medical use in the entire state.

He argued for the benefits of medicinal marijuana for AIDS patients as the health crisis overtook San Francisco. The Chronicle said the epidemic took his partner, Jonathan West, in 1990.

Last year, a member of San Francisco’s Board of Supervisors called him “the father of medical marijuana” at an event honoring him last year.

“I came to San Francisco to find love and to change the world,” Mr. Peron said in reply. “I found love, only to lose him through AIDS. We changed the world.”

A Vietnam War veteran, Mr. Peron spent some of his last years on a farm in Lake County, Calif., growing and giving away medical marijuana.

Born in the Bronx on April 8, 1945, and raised on Long Island, he called himself in his published memoir a “gay kid from Long Island who joined the Air Force to get away from home.”

After his discharge, he moved to a commune in San Francisco where he befriended Supervisor Harvey Milk and began selling marijuana.

In 1991, Mr. Peron founded the first public cannabis dispensary in the country during the height of the U.S. drug war.

He and a friend distributed pot to AIDS patients, got busted several times and was shot in the leg by a police officer, the newspaper said.

The pot club served 9,000 clients before it was closed by a judge.

“The city and the country has lost a cannabis leader who lived life on the edge,” Terrance Alan, a member of the city’s Cannabis Commission, told the Chronicle, “He lived his whole life on the edge, and that’s what allowed us to lead in cannabis.”

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