Without Early AIDS Patients, The Medical Marijuana Movement Wouldn’t Exist

Article by Julia Alsop, Vice

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From 1994 to 1998, Dennis Peron ran one of San Francisco’s most successful marijuana businesses, openly flouting federal and state law by providing the drug to anyone who walked through the door of his Cannabis Buyer’s Club (CBC), with one catch: you had to be sick or disabled to get in.

Modeled after buyer’s clubs for AIDS patients, which gave those suffering from the disease access to non-FDA approved drugs that could help manage the illness, Peron created the CBC as a safe place for AIDS patients to buy and smoke marijuana. Over time, he expanded its clientele to people with disabilities, the terminally ill and the elderly.

Peron was inspired to open his CBC after a raid on his home in 1990. A known marijuana dealer and activist, police busted in with a warrant after receiving a tip that he was selling. They confiscated 4 ounces of marijuana and charged Peron with intent to distribute. But the bud wasn’t Peron’s—it was his lover’s, Jonathan West.

“Now I’ve sold marijuana in my life—lots of it,” Peron wrote in his self-published memoir, How A Gay Hippy Outlaw Legalized Marijuana in Response to the AIDS Crisis. “But I was not selling it that night.”

West was in the late stages of AIDS, and marijuana helped him combat the nausea and loss of appetite he experienced as common side effects of the dozen-plus drugs prescribed to him. West passed away two weeks after the raid.

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