In the battle to legalize cannabis, there are two legends. The late, great Jack Herer, who wrote The Emperor Wears No Clothes, is best known in our community. But Dennis Peron has equally dedicated his life to freeing the weed. He tested the limits of the law long before legalization became a national cause.
Peron is a legendary figure in San Francisco politics: a Vietnam veteran, marijuana dealer, AIDS activist, and close friend and political associate of Harvey Milk, the first openly gay member of the city's board of supervisors, who was assassinated in 1978 along with Mayor George Moscone.
He became an infamous marijuana dealer after returning from the Vietnam War in 1969. In the 70s, he ran San Francisco's Big Top pot supermarket from his home on Castro Street. In time, he became the Bay's premier political activist for pot legalization. In 1978 he authored Proposition W, which passed in a landslide and directed the District Attorney to stop arresting people for possessing, transferring, or growing marijuana.
He then refocused his efforts on the legalization of medical marijuana after seeing his longtime lover beaten by police in a 1990 raid on their home, as he was dying of AIDS. In 1991 Peron authored another successful city ballot measure, Proposition P, which asked the state to legalize the use of medical marijuana (a term coined by Peron). He opened San Francisco's first medical marijuana clinic, the Cannabis Buyers Club, in 1995.
He then co-authored and became the public face of Proposition 215, after bills legalizing medicinal marijuana had been passed twice by the state legislature but vetoed twice by the governor. Peron organized the effort that gathered 763,000 signatures to put it on the statewide ballot, and the initiative was passed in 1996.
Dennis turns 68 today. Take a puff in his honor!