Memoirs Of Dennis Peron - How A Gay Hippy Outlaw Legalized Medical Marijuana In Response To The AIDS Crisis
The AIDS epidemic hit San Francisco hard, quickly taking the lives of more than ten thousand gay men including Jonathan West, the young lover of the city's most notorious pot dealer, Dennis Peron. As laboratories worldwide raced to develop medications Dennis saw that pot was suppressing Jonathan's nausea and enhancing his appetite. It was in this crucible of pain and loss that Dennis Peron opened the world's first Cannabis Buyers' Club while leading the successful effort to change the law in California.
With Proposition 215, the Compassionate Use Act of 1996, Dennis lit a fire that has burned through 17 states and the District of Columbia with no signs of abating. The list of conditions that marijuana helps is without end, a fact that surprises many folks. After the passage of Proposition 215 Dennis announced that "all use is medical" sparking yet another debate.
How did a gay kid from Long Island who joined the Air Force to get away from home during the Vietnam War end up completely re-scripting the way the world sees marijuana? The answer to that question walks the reader through several decades of semi submerged recent history, a period of unprecedented change for gay people and cannabis users. In fact, as you see the world through the eyes of Dennis Peron you will feel the intensity of the struggle that has been occurring just under the placid surface of America over the past 40 years.
Dennis Peron has touched a lot of people. He is the most normal, down to earth, sincere fellow you could ever hope to meet and he is a competitive, driven, relentlessly active person. Equally comfortable schmoozing with the old folks smoking cigarettes outside the senior center or leading a dozen guys on a strenuous outdoor hike, all higher than lords on LSD, his genius lies in the social sphere. He loves people. He is a good listener. He remembers people by name enjoying the confidence of many. This natural ability made him a master pot dealer but it went far beyond that. It extended into effective public speaking, political activism and a tendency toward creating large scenes with many people cohabitating in his personal living quarters.
Dennis Peron has long been a lightning rod for the narcs. But it is his attacks on the pot laws that set him apart. He qualified three initiatives, each passed by overwhelming majorities. Started in 1978 with Proposition "W," a call for local decriminalization, he then went on in 1991 to do Proposition "P," recognizing medical use locally. His Proposition 215 was the death blow to the war on pot in California. In his words, "I'm trying to put myself out of business."
Dennis has a style of organizing much more like Tom Sawyer with perhaps a twist of Saul Alinsky mixed in. Abbie Hoffman crossed with Harvey Milk might be more apropos. In Dennis Peron's parlor, politics, pot dealing and games would just mélange together under thick clouds of smoke.
The politics of pot are rough. Sometimes it takes a true believer to see through the forces of self-interest and complacency. These were at their most extreme in the case of Proposition 215.
The cops tried to kill it. A tiny clique of "career marijuana activists," almost derailed the initiative during the signature drive. Caught between the mendacity of personal friends with differing views, jealous hemp activists, fence hopping mercenary signature gatherers, brain dead billionaires, and even dumber politicians the most amazing thing is that Dennis lived to tell the tale as well as enjoy the last laugh. And only now, fifteen years later can the true story finally be told.
John Entwistle and Dennis Peron have been close friends for thirty years, actively fighting for the civil rights of marijuana users, occasionally even sharing a jail cell or space behind the defendants' table. John was there in 1993 when the first bag of medical marijuana was openly sold in California and it was he who coordinated the drafting of Proposition 215. This book is a joint effort.
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