8. DENNIS PERON
Represents: The struggles of LGBTQ in America, Rise of medical marijuana in America
Originally from a traditional Italian family in the Bronx, Dennis Peron began his days in San Francisco as a gay pot dealer in the late ’60’s, arriving from a stint in Vietnam loaded with two pounds of Asian weed in his duffel bag. He dealt out of his colorful Castro-neighborhood flat, the pot supermarket affectionately dubbed the “The Big Top,” until an SFPD raid—by an undercover drug squad all wearing Hawaiian shirts—resulted in Peron being shot in the thigh.
With the 1980’s came AIDS in America—in the pre-medication days, turning every infection into a life-threatening danger. As the AIDS scourge continued to plague San Francisco’s gay community, Peron discovered cannabis stimulated the appetites of those around him suffering from wasting syndrome and greatly improved the quality of life of those battling AIDS-related complications, including his boyfriend, Jonathan West.
At the time, Peron and other fledgling pot activists didn’t know that the cannabinoids contained within the flowers were also providing immune system boosts and reduction of harmful inflammation.
Peron soon realized the medicinal efficacy of cannabis was a way for the shunned plant to reclaim credibility. In 1991, Peron organized and got medical marijuana measure Prop. P passed in San Francisco with 79 percent of the vote. P didn’t legalize medical pot, but it meant the city was in support of its use for the sick and dying.
Peron founded America’s very first medicinal cannabis dispensary, in a flat on SF’s Sanchez Street, also in ’91, and then the following year, the Cannabis Buyer’s Club in the Castro, and later downtown SF, a facility that saw raids and busts by the cops and the federal government, in between saving lives of patients. Peron then helped craft and pass Prop. 215, California’s groundbreaking medical marijuana measure in 1996.
Even though he suffered a stroke a few years back, Peron is still a presence on the pot scene. Counterpart declared Peron, “The Indispensable Leader of the Marijuana Movement” in 2013, as part of acknowledging Peron receiving the Lifetime Achievement Award at that year’s Emerald Cup held in Sonoma County.
With medical pot now legalized in some states, it was time for leaders to emerge to help preserve its new protected status…