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In Remembrance of Dennis Peron, Father of Medical Marijuana

It’s been a little while since Dennis Peron’s passed on January 27, 2018, but we can’t really go for too long without saying at least a few words on a hugely influential cannabis activist who shares the same philosophy towards cannabis that we do. Dennis Peron was a passionate advocate of the decriminalization of all cannabis use, and that all use is medical use. Despite playing a massive part in the drafting of Proposition P and PROP. 215, Dennis Peron opposed California Proposition 19 in 2010 and Proposition 64 in 2016, as he believed that all cannabis use is medical, and that “recreational” use does not exist. Clearly, a man after our own hearts here at Doctor Frank’s!

Dennis Peron’s views on cannabis may seem a bit more commonplace nowadays, but back in the 80s and 90s, he and many similarly-minded people were trailblazers. This is perhaps unsurprising, seeing as Dennis saw how how cannabis helped his partner (Jonathan West) and many others with AIDS/HIV when he sold it from storefronts in Castro. Dennis would go on to co-found the San Francisco Cannabis Buyers Club in 1992, the first public cannabis dispensary, which was first established with a lower profile in 1990 by Thomas O’Malley. Dennis’s businesses would be raided regularly.

After helping to get the first medical marijuana laws in the US in place, Dennis would become the first presidential nominee for the Grassroots-Legalize Cannabis Party of Minnesota. He also co-authored the book, Brownie Mary’s Marijuana Cookbook and Dennis Peron’s Recipe for Social Change, with Brownie Mary (aka Mary Jane Rathbun). The two were known for baking and distributing cannabis brownies for AIDS and cancer patients. Dennis’s and Mary’s activities would help lead to some of the first clinical trials to study the effects of cannabinoids on HIV+ patients, in particular for cannabis’s effects on wasting syndrome.

Were it not for the work of people like Dennis Peron, who were adamant in their belief that cannabis has medicinal properties, it is unlikely that so many doctors and scientists today would be paying cannabinoids any attention at all. After all, there were studies taking place on it throughout the 60s and 70s, and for many years people just passed the idea off as quackery. Any evidence that existed was usually small and anecdotal in nature, and even promising studies were left to gather dust and left unnoticed – some might say purposefully so – until recently.

The work of people like Peron has set the template for cannabis legalization throughout the United States. More and more people are legitimately asking, “How can we deny sick people something that could help them?” In the past, it may have been possible to handwave away the idea of cannabis as medicine as pseudoscience, and all the evidence at the time as too small to be statistically significant.

Yet, especially over the past 10 or 20 years or so, the body of evidence grows larger and larger, and the “statistically insignificant” charge rings hollower and hollower. Sure, we have a lack of clinical studies and double-blind trials on humans, but that’s more to do with federal laws rather than an unwillingness by scientists to see what’s going in here. Hopefully, Dennis’s work (and all those Yippe smoke-ins!) will not be in vain, and we’ll be given the chance to study this unique, amazing plant and treat it with the respect it deserves.

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