Legendary cannabis activist Dennis Peron passed away this weekend, after a long battle with lung cancer. He was 72.
Known as the “father of medical marijuana,” Peron had been a leader in San Francisco’s gay community since the Seventies and was vocal in his support of using cannabis to help treat AIDS. Peron first came across cannabis during his military service in Vietnam, and later began to organize “smoke-ins” and sell weed when he moved to San Francisco.
Born in the Bronx and raised on Long Island, he grew up to live a long life of service. Up until recently, Peron and his husband John Entwistle operated a psychedelically decorated bed-and-breakfast called the “Castro Castle” in San Francisco’s famous gay neighborhood. On the wall of the Castle’s garden was a mural of Harvey Milk, who not only was the first openly gay man in America to be elected to public office, but who also helped pass Proposition W in 1978 to decriminalize cannabis in San Francisco.
When Milk was assassinated in 1978, Peron carried out his legacy in the cannabis and LGBTQ movements. After Peron’s partner Jonathan West died of AIDS in 1990, Peron became even more active in his pursuit to legalize medical marijuana. In 1991, he helped pass Proposition P in San Francisco, which set up cannabis “buyers clubs” around the city. Still, cannabis was not legal on the state level, and Peron had been arrested more than four times for his involvement in cannabis retail. He had once even been shot in the leg by a police officer for illegally selling marijuana.
By the mid-Nineties, the movement to legalize cannabis for medicinal use had spread throughout the state. Peron was instrumental in drafting Proposition 215, which legalized medical marijuana in California in 1996.
For the past three decades, Peron and Entwistle have remained active in the movement. Last year, the San Francisco Board of Supervisors bestowed a certificate of honor on Peron for his valiant efforts in helping to legalize cannabis. “I came to San Francisco to find love and to change the world,” Peron had said in response his certificate. “I found love, only to lose him through AIDS. We changed the world.”
And that, he was successful in doing. When he passed away on Saturday afternoon, his brother Jeffrey Peron posted on Facebook:
It is with a heavy heart that I announce the passing of my brother Dennis Peron . A man that changed the world.
Peron was loved and admired by many. The proliferation of medical marijuana across the country, no less the world, and cannabis legalization as a whole, are in large part the result of Peron’s hard work as an activist during his lifetime.