California News

Dennis Peron, ‘father’ of legal medical cannabis in California, dead at 72

SAN FRANCISCO — Dennis Peron, a man considered the father of legal medical marijuana in California for his work as an activist, has died. He was 72.

Peron co-authored the 1996 ballot measure, Proposition 215, that legalized medical marijuana use in the entire state.

FILE – In this April 21, 1998 file photo, Director Hazel Rodgers, right, of the newly formed San Francisco Cannabis Healing Center, places her hand on Dennis Peron, founder of the Cannabis Cultivators’ Club and gubernatorial candidate, in San Francisco. Peron, an activist who was among the first people to argue for the benefits of marijuana for AIDS patients and helped legalize medical pot in California, died Saturday, Jan. 27, 2018, at 72. The San Francisco Chronicle reported that Peron died in a hospital in the city. (AP Photo/Ben Margot, File)

His death first was revealed by his brother Jeffrey Peron on the latter’s Facebook page. In the posting, Jeffrey Peron called Dennis “a man that changed the world.”

The San Francisco Chronicle first reported that Peron died in a hospital in the city.

According to the Chronicle report, Peron suffered from lung cancer and in a meeting of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors last year, he was presented with a certificate in his honor as one supervisor called him “the father of medical marijuana.”

A Vietnam veteran, Peron came to San Francisco after his tour of duty. He grew up in Long Island and wrote in his 2012 book, “Memoirs of Dennis Peron” that he joined the Air Force to escape home.

He became friends with Supervisor Harvey Milk and met Jonathan West, who became his partner. West died in 1990 during the spread of the AIDS epidemic.

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“At that point, I didn’t know what I was living for,” Perron told the Los Angeles Times in a 1996 article. “In my pain, I decided to leave Jonathan a legacy of love. I made it my moral pursuit to let everyone know about Jonathan’s life, his death, and his use of marijuana and how it gave him dignity in his final days.”

He later met and married John Entwistle, according to leafly.com.

Before that, he founded the first public cannabis dispensary in the country, and he and a friend distributed marijuana to AIDS patients. Police arrested him several times, including once in the late 1970s for being in possession of 200 pounds of marijuana. He served a six-month sentence.

He also gathered enough signatures on a petition to put Proposition P on the ballot. In Nov. 1991, San Francisco voters passed the measure with 80 percent of the vote, and medical marijuana use was legalized within the city limits.

Five years later, Peron and his supporters gathered enough signatures to get Prop 215 on the ballot. State voters passed the measure with 56 percent of the vote, making California the first state to legalize medical cannabis.


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