Remembering Dennis Peron (1945-2018): My Eulogy

I first met Dennis Peron, the pioneering Bronx-born architect of modern legal medical marijuana in North America, in 2006. It was at his home-cum-hippie-bed-and-breakfast in San Francisco when I was covering article assignments for Skunk Magazine and touring California to conduct interviews.

Dennis Peron in Eureka, California in 2016 during our last interview.

Medical cannabis activist and outlaw cultivator Eddy Lepp introduced me to Peron. I had spent several days at Lepp’s compound in Lake County, California, gathering photos and audio interviews, immediately prior to meeting Peron.

About three days into the adventure, Lepp’s small entourage and I road tripped, Scooby-Doo van style, from the Emerald Triangle to the Castro District. We stayed—per Lepp’s preference in San Francisco lodging—at Peron’s bed and breakfast, better known as the “Castro Castle.” It had served as a pivotal Northern California hub for hundreds of cannabis and LGBTQA+ activists and his friends over the decades.

Last year, a member of San Francisco’s Board of Supervisors called [Peron] “the father of medical marijuana” at an event honoring him. “I came to San Francisco to find love and to change the world,” Mr. Peron said in reply. “I found love, only to lose him through AIDS. We changed the world.” — The Washington Post

Standing in the subtly psychedelic living room of Peron’s San Francisco home, Lepp introduced me to both the legendary medical cannabis activist and Jack Herer, the infamous hemp advocate and author who wrote The Emperor Wears No Clothes in 1985.

Herer was obviously fatigued after a long day of travel and inquired with Peron about his room, in the hope that he could retire for the evening. The response from Peron, however, was that Herer’s people had never made a reservation—and that the bed and breakfast was full. It was an awkward moment during which the Hemperor was officially left roomless….

Jack Herer at Ed Rosenthal’s 2006 Wonders of Cannabis in San Francisco.

In traditional Bugs Bunny “think quick, rabbit” style, I suggested that Herer take my room and that I sleep on the sofa. Peron politely upgraded me from the couch to the attractive deck outside of Herer’s room. I accepted.

I slept under the stars of San Francisco that evening, my wakeful state buoyed by a combination of my natural insomnia, Peron’s joints of sativa, and Herer’s enthusiastic snoring. I fell asleep with the contentment that I had finally shaken hands with the crazy bastards who started the cannabis legalization movement in the United States—and that Jack Herer had slept with my luggage in one of the rooms of Dennis Peron’s bed and breakfast.

After my first visit encounter with Peron, a colleague asked me about the experience. “It was non-stop hand rolled organic cannabis joints smoked by an endless parade of guests, all of whom I’m relatively certain were either gay, potheads, or gay potheads.”

Jack Herer and Dennis Peron in 1996. Photo credit: Associated Press.

It was nearly a decade before I was again in the humble company of Peron, again at his famous bed and breakfast in San Francisco. Although I conducted no formal interview, I enjoyed time with the famous medical cannabis activist and his aging Baby Boomer cronies in their pot smoke-filled kitchen, listening to stories from the old days and avoiding the offer of edibles that I knew would cut my experience short.

In October 2016, when was one of my freelance clients, my (best-ever) editor Melissa Reid requested an interview with Peron that focused on his opinions of Proposition 64 (the adult use ballot initiative that was passed by 56 percent of California voters weeks later on November 8).

I no longer write for magazines and media outlets like High Times and, instead focusing on compliance documentation for aspiring cannabis businesses. I can’t help recognize, however, that me and tens of thousands of others who earn our living in the cannabis industry would probably have no career if it weren’t for Peron’s scrappy, naturally tenacious attitude and his crew of dedicated activist back in 1996.

Peron’s successful effort to pass Proposition 215, America’s first medical cannabis law, launched a wave of both medial and adult use legalization across the continent. It influenced, in no small way, all medical and adult use cannabis laws in North America—including Canada’s federal-level medical marijuana program in 2001 and Washington State’s pioneering feat of becoming the first U.S. state to legalize adult use cannabis in 2012 (followed by Oregon and Colorado in 2014).

Without Peron’s dogged effort to bring relief, via cannabis, to his friends in the Castro district of San Francisco who were dying of AIDS in the early and mid-1990s, there might be no legal marijuana in the United States. Thousands of those who work in the burgeoning industry would have no job, instead being relegated to traditional industries.

Thank you, Dennis.

Gooey Rabinski

All text and photos, unless otherwise noted, Copyright © 2003-2018 Gooey Rabinski. All Rights Reserved.

Gooey Rabinski is a technical writer, photographer, and compliance documentation specialist for cannabis businesses who has contributed feature articles to magazines and media outlets such as High Times, CannaBiz Journal, MERRY JANEEmerald Magazine, Grow Magazine, Herb.coThe KindSkunk, Cannabis Culture, WhaxyHeads, Weed World, Green Flower MediaCannabis HBK11RenderHealth Journal, Green Thumb, and Treating Yourself.

He is the author of Understanding Medical Marijuana, available on Amazon Kindle.

His cannabis-related freelance photos, spanning back more than a decade, are available on Instagram and Flickr. He tweets from @GooeyRabinski.


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