Tag Archives: Medical marijuana

Cannabis Activist Dennis Peron

Cannabis Activist Dennis Peron

From Peron’s Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/dennis.peron)
April 8, 1945 – January 27, 2018

Father of Medical Marijuana

A 2014 headline in a San Francisco Gate article summed it all up:

Why you can thank a gay, hippie Vietnam veteran for legal medical and recreational marijuana today

Dennis Peron was born in New York City and grew up on Long Island, NY and served in the Air Force in Vietnam.

Of his time in Vietnam he said, ““[During the Tet Offensive,] it was a perfect storm. They [the Vietcong] brought the war home to Saigon. They [the Air Force] got even with me. They put me on the morgue for 30 days and I’m 20 years-old. I’ve never seen a dead person. That month I saw 25,000 dead people. I came out of my closet and found out who I was.”

After the war, he moved to San Francisco’s Castro District. During World War II, if the armed services discovered that a soldier was gay, it discharged him. Often this would happen just before the soldiers shipped out and San Francisco was a primary port during the war.

Some of these soldiers settled in San Francisco and later the Castro District became a primarily gay neighborhood.

Cannabis Activist Dennis Peron

Smoke-ins

Cannabis Activist Dennis Peron

Peron joined the Youth International Party ( Yippies!) , the radical side of hippies which promoted various anti-authoritarian ideas, such as promoting the use and legalization of cannabis.

Toward that end, Peron helped organize smoke-ins.

Cannabis Activist Dennis Peron

Medical Marijuana

He also sold cannabis from storefronts in the Castro and advocated for medical cannabis as the scourge of AIDS grew in the 1980. His partner, Jonathan West died of AIDS in 1990.

In 1991, Peron founded the San Francisco Cannabis Buyers Club at the height of the U.S. drug war in 1991.  He gave out cannabis to AIDS patients along with Brownie Mary.

Also in 1991, Peron organized for the passage of San Francisco’s Proposition P, a resolution calling on the state government to permit medical cannabis, which received 79% of the vote.

That same year, he co-founded the San Francisco Cannabis Buyers Club, the first public cannabis dispensary. The club, which served 9,000 clients, was closed by a San Francisco Superior Court judge in 1998.

In 1993, Peron and Brownie Mary jointly released a cookbook with recipes for cannabis edibles.

Cannabis Activist Dennis Peron

Proposition 215

In 1996, Peron coauthored California Proposition 215, which sought to allow the use of medical cannabis.

Dan Lungren, the Attorney General of California, ordered a police raid of Peron’s club a month before the election, arresting Peron.

Proposition 215 was passed soon thereafter, which allowed the club to reopen. Later in 1996, the Grassroots-Legalize Cannabis Party of Minnesota fielded Peron as their nominee, their first, in the U.S. presidential election.

In 1998, Peron ran in the Republican primary for California governor against Lungren, who won the primary and lost the election to Gray Davis.

Peron voiced support for decriminalization of all marijuana use, believing that it is medicinal. He opposed medical marijuana use for children.

Dennis Peron wrote in his 2012 book, “Memoirs of Dennis Peron,” that he was just a “gay kid from Long Island who joined the Air Force to get away from home.”

Cannabis Activist Dennis Peron

Anti-recreational

Peron opposed California Proposition 19 in 2010, which would have legalized recreational cannabis, because he did not believe that recreational use exists, as all people who use marijuana are using it medicinally. He opposed California Proposition 64 in 2016 (approved adult use marijuana) because for the same reason. Voters approved the proposition 57.13% to 42.87%.

In 2013 he published his memoirs: Memoirs of Dennis Peron.

Peron spent some of his last years on a 20-acre farm he owned and operated in Lake County [CA] growing and giving away medical marijuana.

Cannabis Activist Dennis Peron

Accolades

San Francisco’s Board of Supervisors recognized Peron, who was suffering with late-stage lung cancer, with a certificate of honor in 2017. Supervisor Jeff Sheehy called Peron “the father of medical cannabis”.

On January 27, 2018, aged 72, Peron died of lung cancer at the Veteran’s Administration Health Center in San Francisco.

“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, told the Chronicle, “He lived his whole life on the edge, and that’s what allowed us to lead in cannabis.”

Cannabis Activist Dennis Peron
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Activist Brownie Mary Jane

Activist Brownie Mary Jane

On December 22, 1922 a girl was born in Chicago.  The parents, Irish-Catholic and conservative in their views, named their baby Mary Jane. They had no irony in mind, but it would turn out to be exactly that.

Mary Jane Rathburn grew up in Minneapolis and attended a Catholic grammar school. As was the case in many schools during the 30s, teachers physically punished recalcitrant students.  The problem with caning a recalcitrant student is they might fight back.

Mary Jane did. Mary Jane left school. Mary Jane left home. Mary Jane became a waitress, a job that would be her primary one for most of her life. At least the primary one if someone asked her, “So what do you do for a living?”

Mary Jane was far more than a waitress.

Activist Brownie Mary Jane

Early activism

She campaigned for the right of miners to form unions. In the late 1940s, she worked as an activist promoting abortion rights for Minneapolis women.

In between, during World War II and living in San Francisco, she married, had a baby in 1955, and named her Peggy. Divorced, Mary Jane  and Peggy moved to Reno, Nevada. In  1974, a drunk driver hit and killed Peggy.

Activist Brownie Mary Jane

San Francisco again

Mary Jane moved back to San Francisco.

In 1974 she met fellow activist Dennis Peron at Cafe Flore. They shared a joint.

Cafe Flore was in the Castro district, a largely gay area of San Francisco. During the war, the armed services dishonorably discharged soldiers found to be gay and many of those discharges took place at the port of San Francisco. Many stayed.

Activist Brownie Mary Jane

Becoming Brownie Mary

In  the late 1970s Mary Jane began to supplement her income by baking brownies. She decided that adding marijuana to her brownies would make them what she described as “magically delicious.”

Mary Jane was not the first to use cannabis as an ingredient. Humans had been using it for centuries. Most famously in the west was the Alice B Toklas’s fudge recipe that was included in her 1954 cookbook.

In 1981 the law caught up with Mary.  It raided her apartment and hauled away “35 lbs of margarine, 50 lbs of flour and sugar, 22 dozen eggs, 21,000 sq ft of plastic wrap, and 20 lbs of high-grade cannabis.”

Mary was upset they said it was margarine. She said she only used the best butter.

In order to pay for her legal defense, she sold her belongings – including the kitchen table.

A judge sentenced her to 500 hours of community service which she willingly completed by working at a hospital with young men who were dying of the yet-unnamed AIDS.

For the rest of her life she continued to minister to AIDS patients and providing for some relief by bringing her increasingly famous brownies. She bought nearly all the ingredients with her own money. Somehow, the marijuana appeared for free from generous growers.

Two other arrests occurred, but her reputation of assistance led to a lenient sentence. The last charge was dropped.

Activist Brownie Mary Jane

Medical Marijuana

As the AIDS crisis grew and the use of cannabis demonstrated its  obvious and effective analgesic properties, Brownie Mary became increasingly involved in the Proposition P campaign to recommend its legalization for medicinal use in San Francisco in 1991.  She received a standing ovation at its hearings.

The proposition passed overwhelmingly but not until 1996’s passage of Proposition 215 was the recommendation legalized.

In 2008 the medical marijuana group “Americans for Safe Access” estimated that California had more than 200,000 doctor-qualified medical cannabis users.

Activist Brownie Mary Jane

 San Francisco Cannabis Buyers Club

Activist Brownie Mary Jane

In 1992 San Francisco declared a ‘Brownie Mary Day’  to honor her work with dying patients in the AIDS ward. 5,000 people rallied in her praise.

That same year, she and Dennis Peron founded the San Francisco Cannabis Buyers Club. The Buyers Club was meant to provide a place for safe distribution of medical cannabis to people with cancer, AIDS,  and other diseases. Akin somewhat to the Prohibition speakeasies of the 1920s, the product was illegal and raids regular.

Just weeks before the Prop 215 vote, police arrested Dennis Peron.

Activist Brownie Mary Jane

Disabilities catch up

By the mid-1990s, arthritic knees forced her to retire but she continued to bake and support positive marijuana legislation.

A Marijuana dot com article said, “Her sympathies were always with the underdog, the poor, the busted and the downtrodden,” John Entwistle Jr., a former legalization advocate and longtime friend of Rathbun, told Marijuana.com. “One could see that she had overcome tremendous difficulties in her own life and that created a natural empathy and sense of compassion for others that was tangible and sincere.”

Brownie Mary  died of a heart attack at age 76 on April 10, 1999.

On April 17, 300 people, including her friend, district attorney Terence Hallinan, attended a candlelight vigil held in her honor in the Castro.

Hallinan told a crowd of several hundred people gathered at her memorial that she was a hero who will “one day be remembered as the Florence Nightingale of the medical marijuana movement.”

Friend and partner activist Dennis Peron said, “I figure right now she’s making a deal with God: If you let me in, I’ll make you a dozen brownies on the house.’ ”

Activist Brownie Mary Jane
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