PUFF History was made in the Castro on a bench at Cafe Flore in 1974. Dennis Peron shared a joint with Mary Jane Rathburn aka Brownie Mary and the two became friends. That friendship would lead to a shared devotion to bring cannabis medicine to cancer patients, and later AIDS patients. It would lead to the passing of Prop 215, creating medicinal marijuana, and changing the world.
Brownie Mary passed in 1999, and we lost Peron recently to cancer. I was lucky to be part of the memorial in his honor on March 11. It was a fantastic affair. The street was blocked off on Noe Street at Market. There was a giant tent erected with an amazing altar to Peron inside as well as music, a light show and giant blown-up photographs of his life’s highlights. Free food and drinks plus plenty to toke.
Then there were the speakers. They came from far and wide. Some were active participants in the history of medicinal marijuana. Some were lifelong fans and patients. Of course, there were the politicians to pay homage to the man who defied the law when he co-founded the very first medicinal dispensary at Church and Market called the San Francisco Cannabis Buyers Club.
There were tributes to Peron everywhere. Everyone had wonderful things to say about this man and the legacy he left. But where is that love now for the cannabis industry he helped create? Politicians had no problem showing up and praising Dennis Peron; all the while the city and state have shown little of that kindness to the people continuing the fight.
Many people are feeling like they got a raw deal by Prop 64, which legalized marijuana this year. They say that it was pushed through by key members of the community who supported it because it released people from prison and was a stepping stone to a better law. That’s good; but these same key members already had a firm financial standing in the cannabis community. So when January came, they were just fine and could pay for all the crazy licensing fees and tests necessary to comply with the legalization standards. But lots of other people who followed all the official guidelines and advice given leading up to the change found a hostile environment.
Some California cities are not allowing edibles makers to rent any kitchen space to prepare their products. People who at one time ran very successful and profitible businesses are being reduced to cooking in their own kitchen, or worse. One friend of mine followed all the advice given to him, had a great space available in Oakland that he was paying rent on, and then he was fined and kicked out because of new regulations.
Of course not every story ends that way. There are lots of companies that have leaped over every hurdle put in front of them and made it through the gauntlet relatively unscathed. But when you look at the fact that only 1% of marijuana growers are currently licensed to grow in California, you know something is up.
You take a rebel group that has maintained its existence outside of the law for years. You finally get them out in the open and talk them into going legit for recreational cannabis. Then you throw all these rules and regulations at them which they grudgingly agree to. After the law goes into effect, lots of bad things about the new law pop up all over the place and their world turns toxic. What happens then? The rebels go back home and take their marijuana plants with them.
The black market for marijuana is insane right now. No one in the industry wants to pay all the taxes, and for many, the bad outweighs the good. Sure, the dispensaries are full of new patients buying guilt-free, legal weed, but soon the unhappiness in the vendor/grower world is going to have an impact on that.
Basically, the state is taking all the good that Dennis Peron spent his life working on and tearing it up to make room for something ore sinister. Gone is the compassion and caring that go with the medicinal cannabis movement, and now we have cold, unemotional business taking over. That was in part expected, but the soul of the marijuana movement is truly being tested. There are still many compassionate people in the industry, and we need to center their voices again.
So I hope all those politicians hailing Peron in public at his memorial will bring those thoughts with them to their offices, and try to bring a little of the caring back into the law.
California needs to look at the detrimental impact Prop 64 is having and make changes now!
It’s time to light up!