Many in the United States are unaware that the current wave of cannabis legalization began 20 years ago, with California’s progressive Compassionate Use Act.
Better known as Proposition 215, the ballot initiative garnished 56 percent of the vote in 1996, but is being replaced by new laws. For example, California’s Medical Marijuana Regulation and Safety Act (MMRSA), passed in 2015, provides greater clarity and additional regulations for consumers, producers and processors, and law enforcement.
Despite having been the genesis of cannabis legalization in the U.S., the Golden State has fallen behind its peers in terms of allowing its adult citizens to use cannabis “recreationally.” To remedy this, a ballot initiative, Proposition 64, is being offered to voters on Nov. 8.
Dennis Peron, the San Francisco-based veteran activist considered by many to be the father of Proposition 215, is opposed to Proposition 64. During a recent tour of Humboldt County to compel family farmers to vote against the ballot initiative, Peron granted MERRY JANE an exclusive interview.
MERRY JANE: In 1996, you were instrumental in getting Proposition 215 passed for medical use. Twenty years later, why are you opposed to Proposition 64 for adult use?
Dennis Peron: If Proposition 64 was aiding Prop 215, I’d be all for it. But it’s not. It seems to be rewriting what we already accomplished. We don’t need more rewriting of the laws; we have enough marijuana laws.
What is your opinion of medical versus recreational use?
They’re trying to shift it from medical to recreational. I personally don’t even know what “recreational” marijuana is. There is no recreational marijuana. They made it up. What they’re trying to do is separate us by saying there’s people having fun and there’s people medicating.
But people who use marijuana don’t get “high,” they get normal. The government is trying to say that people are getting high. They’re trying to demonize these people because they’re having fun.
Do you think this is a bad thing for patients?
I think it will be bad for everyone! It’s a bad message to send to our children when they know marijuana is a medicine and they respect it. If they think of it as recreational, they won’t respect it.
We called Prop 215 the Compassionate Use Act. What is theirs called? The Adult Use of Marijuana Act. This sends the wrong message. Not only do adults feel better [from using cannabis], children and teens also feel better. Only 21 and older? Kids don’t get cancer? Kids don’t kill themselves? Well, they do. And marijuana could help them.
Any government involvement is bad. The government fucks it up. We rely on the government too much. Prop 215 had no government, no bureaucracy. Prop 64 is only about money and power.
What do you think will happen if Proposition 64 passes?
If we buy into this, it’s going to ruin marijuana. It’s the wrong message to kids. It’s the wrong message to everyone. I think the people [behind Prop 64] are drunk on power and money. They’re never going to give up. They wanna sell it like beer and liquor. I’m against that.
Let’s talk more about your opinion of alcohol versus cannabis....
They’re trying to regulate marijuana like alcohol. Now, alcohol is a sin; marijuana is not. Marijuana does not make you lose your mind. It makes you more conscious of reality and yourself.
But they have a plan if they win this one. The plan is to tax it more and more and more. With Prop 215, we finally got free of the government and bureaucracy and these people who are moral do-gooders. We have to expose them for what they are doing. It may be too late…. I don’t know.
How do you feel about your legacy?
I’m feeling that my legacy of freeing people and helping them feel good about themselves is under attack. If supporters of Prop 64 win, what is their legacy? Taxation, bureaucracy, cops, jails….
These Proposition 64 guys don’t trust people. They just want to tax the hell out of everyone. These people are using this initiative just to make money. They want to dismiss us as a bunch of crazy potheads.