Marijuana VIP: Dennis Peron

Marijuana VIP: Dennis Peron
Adam Parsons

Understanding the past is a key step to acknowledging where we are today. Were it not for Dennis Perons actions in the 80's and 90's medical cannabis would not be so freely available in many parts of the USA.

For many cannabis users in the USA buying marijuana for personal use is now available through legitimized dispensaries. Cannabis carries far less of a stigma that it did a decade ago, slowly becoming accepted in mainstream society.

It wasn't always like this though, and if it was not for the passion and dedication of hardworking cannabis advocates we would not enjoy the recreational freedom we do now.

One of those pioneers was none other than Dennis Peron, "the father of medical cannabis". His selfless actions paved the way for the freedom to buy and use medical cannabis, a freedom that we enjoy today.

Sadly Dennis passed away January 27th, 2018 and whilst he will be dearly missed by many, we honor his memory by understanding the deep and lasting impact he has had on the cannabis community.


Born in the Bronx, New York City, Dennis grew up on long island. In his self-titled book 'Memoirs of Dennis Peron', he refers to himself as a “gay kid from Long Island who joined the Air Force to get away from home during the Vietnam War.” It was the Vietnam war that first led him to explore cannabis and its potential uses.

It was upon his return that an AIDS epidemic was sweeping the LGBT community of San Francisco. Determined to help he saw cannabis as a means of support to those suffering from AIDS. Taking matters into his own hands, Dennis began selling marijuana from storefronts in Castro to aid his friends in their time of need.

This battle against AIDS is something Dennis would have to endure throughout his life, as his partner Jonathan West, was diagnosed with AIDS, sadly dying in 1990.


Spurred on by his desire to help and support others, he started to lobby for the use of cannabis as a medical tool rather than the recreational activity many of us enjoy today. From that time in his life, he has campaigned tirelessly to promote and advocate its use in assisting illness.

Speaking exclusively to, Peron said “Marijuana is a medicine, there is no recreational. Medical marijuana people don't get high; they get normal. It makes them feel complete.”

Dennis knew he couldn't go it alone, and together with other prominent cannabis community members, Dr. Donald Abrams and Mary Jane Rathbun, he would later lead them to a significant victory and a landmark in cannabis history. This was the successful passing of Proposition 215. But there was a long road to this victory; Dennis would endure many years of battling law enforcement.


Dennis' major run-ins with the law were a result of opening the first cannabis dispensary in the USA. Aptly named the "Cannabis Buyers Club", the doors were opened in 1992 with the help fo a small group of activists, providing the San Francisco community with cannabis for medical use.

Whilst it would later be known by the names Cannabis Cultivators Club and Cannabis Heating club, the goal remained the same. Although Dennis was clear in his convictions, the local law enforcement saw things differently.

Dennis' passion, advocacy, and the club that he founded would put him in hot water not once but three times over the years. Being arrested by the authorities in 1978, 1990 and 1996. Multiple run-ins with the law and even a gunshot wound to the leg would not be enough to break his resolve. Knowing that he had to do more, he moved his energy into the milestone we now know as the 'The Compassionate Use Act'.


Perhaps one of Dennis' crowning achievements was Proposition 215, legalizing cannabis for medical use in California. Lobbying tirelessly, whilst seeking support from anyone that would listen, he personally led the charge on Proposition 215 (The Compassionate Use Act). It is a day that should be noted down in history for cannabis community members.

On November 5th, 1996 the act passed allowing “exemption of patients and defined caregivers who possess or cultivate marijuana for medical treatment recommended by a physician from criminal laws which otherwise prohibit possession or cultivation of marijuana”. 55% of voters voted in favor of the Compassion Act, something that undoubtedly would not have passed had it not been for Peron's unwavering drive and perseverance.

It was the beginning of a movement, a movement that has slowly worked its way through the US, inspiring and showing that with hard work, cannabis can be legalized as a medicine.


As of 2015, there were at least 2,174 medical cannabis dispensaries operating in California. All 2,174 of those would not be here today were it not for Dennis Peron. The cannabis community owes him a debt of gratitude.

Not only that but undeniably everyone he helped as a result of the medical cannabis he provided. If Peron's legacy teaches us anything, is that with the heart and belief in something even one individual can drive change.

Dennis would live out his final days on his own 20-acre cannabis farm near Clear Lake, California. Finally being recognized for his hardships, the San Francisco Board Of Supervisors awarded him with a certificate of honor in 2017, appropriately naming him 'the father of medical cannabis.”

Rest in peace, Dennis Peron.

Adam Parsons
Adam Parsons

As a professional cannabis journalist, author, and copywriter, Adam has been writing about all things psychoactive, CBD, and everything in between for a long time. In an ever-changing market, Adam uses his BA (Hons) Multimedia Journalism degree to keep in stride with contemporary research and contributing worthwhile information to all of his projects.