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Dennis Robert Peron (April 8, 1945[1] – January 27, 2018) was an American activist and businessman who became a leader in the movement for the legalization of cannabis throughout the 1990s. He influenced many in California and thus changed the political debate on marijuana in the United States.[2]

Dennis Peron
Dennis Peron 2008 by Cary Newman.jpg
Born (1945-04-08)April 8, 1945
The Bronx, New York City, New York, U.S.
Died January 27, 2018(2018-01-27) (aged 72)
San Francisco, California, U.S.
Residence San Francisco
Nationality American
Years active 1970s–2018
Known for Activism for legalizing cannabis


Peron was born in The Bronx, New York City, into an Italian-American family[3] and grew up in Long Island. He served in the United States Air Force in Vietnam during the Tet Offensive.[4] After the war, he moved to the Castro District, San Francisco, where he became an active Yippie and organized smoke-ins.[5][6] He also supported gay activist Harvey Milk, a former Long Island resident,[7] who won an elected seat on the San Francisco Board of Supervisors in 1977.[3]

Peron sold cannabis from storefronts in the Castro and advocated for medical cannabis, as he saw how patients with AIDS benefited from it. His partner, Jonathan West, whom he met in San Francisco, died of AIDS in 1990.[3] In 1991, Peron organized for the passage of San Francisco's Proposition P, a resolution calling on the state government to permit medical cannabis, which received 79% of the vote.[8] That same year, he co-founded the San Francisco Cannabis Buyers Club, the first public cannabis dispensary. His businesses were raided by authorities in 1978 and 1990.[9] In 1993, Peron and Brownie Mary jointly released a cookbook with recipes for cannabis edibles.[10]

In 1996, Peron coauthored California Proposition 215, which sought to allow the use of medical cannabis.[11] Dan Lungren, the Attorney General of California, ordered a police raid of Peron's club a month before the election, arresting Peron.[12] Proposition 215 was passed soon thereafter, which allowed the club to reopen. Later in 1996, the Grassroots-Legalize Cannabis Party of Minnesota fielded Peron as their nominee, their first, in the U.S. presidential election. Peron received 5,400 votes.[13] In 1998, Peron ran in the Republican primary for California governor against Lungren, who won the primary and lost the election to Gray Davis.[14]

Peron voiced support for decriminalization of all marijuana use, believing that it is medicinal. He opposed medical marijuana use for children.[15] Peron opposed California Proposition 19 in 2010, which would have legalized recreational cannabis, because he did not believe that recreational use exists, as all people who use marijuana are using it medicinally.[16] He opposed California Proposition 64 in 2016.[17]

Later in life, Peron owned and operated a 20-acre (8.1 ha) cannabis farm near Clearlake, California.[18] San Francisco's Board of Supervisors recognized Peron, who was suffering with late-stage lung cancer, with a certificate of honor in 2017.[11] Supervisor Jeff Sheehy called Peron "the father of medical cannabis".[14] On January 27, 2018, aged 72,[19], Peron died of lung cancer at the Veteran’s Administration Health Center in San Francisco.[7][11]


  1. ^ "Legal Marijuana Trailblazer Dennis Peron Dies at Age 72 in San Francisco". January 28, 2018. Retrieved January 29, 2018. 
  2. ^ Fernandez, Elizabeth; Zamora, Jim Herron (August 18, 1996), "Long rivalry links pot raid figures", The San Francisco Examiner, retrieved February 22, 2008 
  3. ^ a b c L., Megha (January 28, 2018). "Death: Marijuana Activist Dies At 71". International Business Times. 
  4. ^ Downs, David (November 11, 2014). "Why you can thank a gay, hippie Vietnam veteran for legal medical and recreational marijuana today". Retrieved January 28, 2018. 
  5. ^ Oscar Pascual. "Marijuana Legalization: Seeds Planted Long Ago Finally Flower". SFGate. Retrieved November 15, 2012. 
  6. ^ Dennis Peron Cause of Death: Marijuana Activist Dies At 71,; accessed January 28, 2018.
  7. ^ a b Bloom, Steve (January 27, 2018). "California Medical-Marijuana Pioneer Dennis Peron Passes Away". FreedomLeaf. 
  8. ^ Evans, Mark (December 1, 1996). "Force Behind Proposition 215 Says His Push Began as 'Legacy of Love'". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved January 28, 2018. 
  9. ^ Chris Roberts (January 27, 2016). "The Cannabis Legalizers Opposing Legalization". Retrieved January 28, 2018. 
  10. ^ Goldberg, Carey (July 6, 1996). "Brownie Mary' Fights to Legalize Marijuana". The New York Times. Retrieved January 28, 2018. 
  11. ^ a b c Johnson, Lizzie. "Dennis Peron, activist who helped legalize medical marijuana, dies". Retrieved January 28, 2018. 
  12. ^ "Cannabis Buyers' Club Founder Arrested". October 15, 1997. Retrieved January 28, 2018. 
  13. ^ Bickford, Bob; Ballot Access News (October 7, 1998). "1996 Presidential Votes by State". 
  14. ^ a b Staver, Sari (February 16, 2017). "SF honors Peron for medical cannabis work". Retrieved January 28, 2018. 
  15. ^ "Medical Marijuana Policy in the United States". Huntington's Outreach Project for Education, at Stanford. Retrieved May 15, 2012. 
  16. ^ "Local Marijuana Advocate Says No on Prop. 19". MissionLocal. September 22, 2010. Retrieved January 28, 2018. 
  17. ^ McGreevy, Patrick. "The push to legalize pot for all has deeply divided the medical marijuana community". Retrieved January 28, 2018. 
  18. ^ "Where the Grass Is Greener/Dennis Peron has taken to growing and giving away marijuana on his farm". SFGate. February 5, 1999. Retrieved January 28, 2018. 
  19. ^ Francisco, Reuters in San (January 28, 2018). "Dennis Peron, father of medical marijuana in California, dies at 72". The Guardian. Retrieved January 29, 2018. 

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