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Dennis Peron, the "father of medical marijuana" in California, passed away this Saturday at the age of 72 after a long battle with lung cancer. "A man that changed the world," Jeffrey Peron wrote in a Facebook post. "It is with a heavy heart that I announce the passing of my brother Dennis Peron."
Peron first discovered cannabis while serving in Vietnam. After moving to San Francisco in the 1970s, though, he began to organize smoke-ins and sell weed in the Castro. When the AIDS crisis hit San Francisco in the 1980s, Peron observed the positive effects of cannabis on those suffering from the disease, and began to organize support for legalization.
After his partner, Jonathan West, died from AIDS in 1990, Peron spent the next year advocating for medical cannabis. In 1991, Peron was instrumental in the passage of Proposition P in San Francisco, a resolution that called on the state government to allow medical cannabis. The same year, he also founded the Cannabis Buyers Club, the first public cannabis dispensary, although it was still technically illegal in the state. The activist was arrested more than four times, and was once shot in the leg by a cop, for selling pot illegally.
Peron continued his fight to advocate for legal cannabis throughout the '90s and onward. He helped draft Proposition 215, the landmark ballot measure that legalized medical use of cannabis in California in 1996. Ironically, after the legalization measure passed, Peron's Cannabis Buyers Club was shut down in 1998 by a San Francisco Superior Court Judge. Peron spent the final years of his life growing medical cannabis on a 20-acre farm in Lake County, California.
Last year, the San Francisco Board of Supervisors recognized Peron with a certificate of honor. "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, said to the San Francisco Chronicle. "He lived his whole life on the edge, and that's what allowed us to lead in cannabis. Not many people would have had the courage at the time that he took up the mantle." RIP Peron, the cannabis community will strive to live up to your legacy.